Ukraine Urges NATO to Deploy Ships in Dispute with Russian Federation

REUTERS  Alla Dmitrieva

All Russian men of combat age were barred from entering Ukraine today as tensions continued to rise between the two countries.

On Sunday, Russian military forces fired upon three Ukrainian vessels attempting to pass through the Kerch Strait - a narrow passage that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

In a further move, Ukraine banned the entry of Russian men aged 16-60 to prevent the forming of "private armies" on Ukranian soil.

A column of what appeared to be anti-ship missile systems was spotted on a highway headed toward the Crimean city of Kerch on Tuesday, the Russian state-funded television network RT reported.

The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands.

Poroshenko said Ukraine's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies were needed "to provide security" after Russian forces seized the ships and their crews on Sunday.

The Guardian reported this week that Russian Federation is still blocking access to several Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, a body of water that features Russian Federation on the eastern side and Ukraine on the opposite shore.

Poroshenko said that the ban on Russian male immigration is created to prevent a repeat of the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea, in which nominally "private" commandos acting at the Kremlin's direction seized and occupied sovereign Ukrainian territory. So far, the West has offered condemnations of Russia's attack on Ukrainian ships but made no move to sanction Russian Federation. Under this treaty, Russian Federation and Ukraine would both have to grant permission for NATO warships to sail through the Kerch Strait.

Tensions rise in the Kerch Strait after a naval clash between Russia and Ukraine
Tensions rise in the Kerch Strait after a naval clash between Russia and Ukraine

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was canceling planned talks with Putin over the issue.

Moscow has been supporting Russian separatists in the east of the country with troops and weapons. Poroshenko introduced martial law across ten regions in eastern and southeastern Ukraine on Monday, using the Kerch Strait incident as a justification.

Volker said the Ukrainian vessels were returning to Odessa "when the Russian vessels then pursued them and attacked them". We help to modernise the Ukrainian armed forces; we provide some support to the naval forces of Ukraine, and we are constantly assessing what more we can do to provide support and to help Ukraine. That encounter saw Russian warships fire on and seize three Ukrainian navy vessels, wounding several of their crew.

Russia is calling on the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other worldwide organizations to pay attention to violations of human rights in that country, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Friday.

The raid is even more sensitive since the cleric in question, Metropolitan Pavel, heads the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, one of Ukraine's most famous monasteries and a tourist site where mummified monks rest in labyrinthine underground caves.

There are rumblings that Ukraine will call for the closure of the Bosphorus Strait to Russian Navy traffic as a result of Moscow's recent acts, which would cut off the Black Sea Fleet from the Mediterranean.

Russia's foreign ministry responded to the temporary ban on Friday, criticizing Ukraine leadership and saying it would not reciprocate. A lawyer representing the sailors in Crimea, Jemil Temishev, said on Thursday that he believed the sailors were being transferred to Moscow's Lefortovo jail, one of Russia's most notorious prisons, used for holding suspected spies and political prisoners.

Watch Russian Warship Ram Ukrainian Tugboat in the Black Sea
It was not clear whether the sailors' confessions, given in the custody of Russia's security services, were made under duress. One of the men, Volodymyr Lisovyi, said he was aware of the "provocative nature" of the Ukrainian action.

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