Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation foreign ministers debate Russia-Ukraine tensions

Ukrainian diaspora at protest rally in London November 2018       Open source Ukrainian diaspora at protest rally in London November 2018 Open source
Gerardo Duncan | 05 December, 2018, 02:51

Earlier, Ukraine's infrastructure minister Volodymyr Omelyan had said the two ports - vital for eastern Ukraine's economy - had been "partially unlocked" with the restoration of some free movement through the Kerch Strait.

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas made a statement a few hours after the foreign minister, also calling on Russian Federation to immediately release the Ukrainian ships seized and the naval personnel captured in the Kerch Strait and to take steps to alleviate tensions.

"This is certainly a provocation organized by the current government, I think, including the current president, on the eve of presidential elections in Ukraine in March next year", Putin said.

In the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, Ukrainian border guard spokesman Artem Polyakov said tensions in the area were boiling.

Foreign ministers from the 29 allies will meet Ukraine's foreign minister on Tuesday to discuss last week's incident in the Sea of Azov, in which the Russian navy seized three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors.

He said that some military units will be redeployed to strengthen the nation's defences in a ratcheting up of tensions between the neighbouring countries.

"Russian Federation must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships".

Omelyan, who accused Russian Federation last week of blocking Ukrainian cargo trying to pass through the strait, said Tuesday that the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol have been "partially unblocked" thanks to a "stern global response".

An hour later, at 10:24 p.m. on Sunday night, Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser condemned the attack by Russian Federation against Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait and called on Russian Federation to release the vessels seized by it. "Also, we talked about the possibility of banning Russian vessels from civilized countries' ports", the Ukrainian top diplomat stated. Since May, Russia has been stopping and delaying shipping in the region, in the process imposing significant costs on vessels seeking to transact in Ukrainian ports.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has submitted a draft bill to parliament which seeks to terminate a friendship treaty with Russian Federation.

Tensions in the area had been building since Russian Federation completed construction of a bridge connecting its mainland to the peninsula of Crimea, which President Vladimir Putin annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow says Ukrainian navy ships entered Russian waters while trying to cross the strait without prior notice, ignoring orders to stop.

When Russia and Ukraine were relatively friendly, they shared the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as part of a 2003 agreement.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have helped modernise Ukraine's armed forces and boosted their presence in the Black Sea over the previous year, with more ships deployed in the region and more air policing.

Ukrainian TV channel "112 Ukraine" on Saturday showed Poroshenko presenting new and overhauled military aircraft, helicopters and drones to the Ukrainian army.

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