Moscow has protested Kiev’s “planned” breach of Russian waters in the Kerch Strait and cautioned Ukraine’s foreign backers against blowing the incident out of proportion. Russia will “strongly” respond to similar “provocations.”
Three Ukrainian military boats on Sunday tried to pass through the Kerch Strait apparently without prior warning, but were ordered to stop by Russian border guards. A confrontation ensued, ending with the three ships being seized by the Russian side.
The actions of the Ukrainian Navy “violated the rules of passage through Russian territorial waters,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday, adding that Moscow has summoned an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss the incident.
“Russia has repeatedly warned the Kiev regime and its Western supporters that fanning up the hysteria over the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait was dangerous. It’s obvious that there was a provocation, carefully planned in terms of location and form, which is aimed at flaring up yet another point of conflict in the region and creating a new pretext to impose more sanctions against Russia.”
Kiev has used the clash to justify declaring martial law – something Moscow says only benefits Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ahead of the March elections. Poroshenko has been struggling to campaign for re-election, with his popularity decimated by harsh economic problems and recent corruption scandals.
Moscow also said it’s outraged by vandalism attacks targeting Russian diplomatic missions in Ukraine following the Kerch standoff. Further incidents of a similar nature may have “serious consequences,” it said, pledging to “strongly counter” any attempt to violate Russian sovereignty.