Russia attacks Ukraine in Black Sea: What’s happening now (LIVE UPDATES)

26 Nov 2018 | Ukraine
Russia attacks Ukraine in Black Sea: What’s happening now (LIVE UPDATES)

The Coast Guard of the Russian Federal Security Service attacked and seized three Ukrainian Navy boats on Nov. 25 after the Ukrainian vessels tried to go from the Black Sea into the Azov Sea through the Russian-controlled Kerch Strait. Six Ukrainian sailors were wounded in the shooting. The three Ukrainian vessels were taken to the port of Kerch in annexed Crimea. Ukrainian Chief of Staff said there had been 23 naval officers onboard Ukrainian Navy boats.

The attack came as the culmination of the months-long tensions in the Kerch Strait as Russia de facto seized control of the strait that is supposed to be used commonly by the two nations according to a 2003 bilateral agreement.

The Russian authorities claimed that Ukrainian vessels provoked the attack by trespassing the “prohibited area” – although a 12-mile strip they refer to is the territorial waters of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula invaded and annexed by Russia in 2014.

Ukrainian parliament will meet at 4 p.m. on Nov. 26 to consider imposing martial law, as offered by President Petro Poroshenko the night following the attack.

Here are the latest developments on Kyiv time:

15:09 p.m. – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has just held a press conference, during which he described Russia’s attack on the three Ukrainian navy vessels on Nov. 25 as “a provocation.” In the Kremlin’s view, this, however, was a “provocation” by Ukraine against Russia. All the same, video evidence of part of the incident strongly indicates that a Russian coast guard ship deliberately rammed a Ukrainian military tug, and Russia was in the wrong. Lavrov also claimed “martial law (in Ukraine) is an attempt to distract people from the upcoming elections, after the implementation of which Ukrainian radicals will have their hands untied to create provocations in the Donbas.”

15:06 p.m. – The Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, will convene a special session today in Vienna at 16:00 CET to discuss “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine”, according to the US mission to the OSCE, posting on Twitter.

14:45 p.m. – President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced on Twitter that he had discussed Russia’s attack on Ukrainian Navy vessels near the Kerch Strait with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. “I condemn Russian use of force in Azov Sea. Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels & refrain from further provocations,” his tweet reads. Tusk said he would meet Ukrainian president’s representatives later in the day. “Europe will stay united in support of Ukraine,” he added.

14:06 p.m. – Admiral Ihor Voronchenko, chief of the Ukrainian Navy, said that the Ukrainian cutter crew attacked by Russia did not return fire so as not to provoke the Russians and to avoid battle. Voronchenko said that the Ukrainian vessels were within the 12-mile zone of territorial waters. Of course, Crimea and its 12-mile coast belong to Ukraine, while Russia is illegally occupying the pensinsula since its military invasion and claims it as their own.

14:00 p.m. –  Alina Polyakova of Brookings Institution tweets about Moscow’s likely motivations for its military escalation in the Azov Sea and blockade of Kerch Strait: Putin’s declining approval ratings, 82 percent in April to 66 percent in October. They tend to coincide with new foreign policy adventures to divert domestic pressure, she writes.

13:51 p.m – Andrii Klymenko, chief editor of the Black Sea News website, posted on Facebook new information about the incident in the Kerch Strait on Nov. 25. The initial ramming was in Ukrainian territorial waters (falsely claimed by the Kremlin as Russian), near the Kerch Strait. The three Ukrainian vessels then fled for international waters but were stopped just before escaping, Klymenko says.

13:25 p.m. – Verkhovna Rada Deputy Speaker Oksana Syroyid argued in a Facebook post on Nov. 25 that the authorities had not introduced martial law previously after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 because they did not deem it to be politically expedient.

“But today they realized that martial law in the whole territory of Ukraine is a wonderful opportunity to manipulate presidential elections and, if necessary, introduce a bit of dictatorship,” said Syroid, who represents the Samopomich party.

Syroid said on Nov. 26, however, that martial law was necessary and should have been introduced in 2014 in Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of martial law,” she said. “We should be afraid of people who want to use it.”

13:15 p.m. – The Russian attack in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait has already alarmed the Azov Sea fishermen, Valeriy Motora, the captain of Mariupol Fish Port told the Kyiv Post on Nov. 26.

“We’re trying to decide what to do and whether we all are safe to go fishing. My sailors are afraid they will have no money to feed their families,” Motora said.

Motora said the crews were fishing closer to the Ukrainian controlled coasts of the Azov Sea since Aug. 15, the start of the new fishing season in the Azov, so they didn’t get to witness the Nov. 25 attack. Fishermen were afraid to get closer to the Kerch Strait since in May Russians arrested Ukrainian fishing boat in the Black Sea for poaching. Many saw it as a revenge for the March arrest of the Crimean fishing vessel Nord by Ukrainian Coast Guard.

12:56 p.m. – National Bank of Ukraine’s Governor Yakiv Smoliy says that the central bank is ready to back the hryvnia if necessary, according to the NBU’s website.

12:25 p.m. – Ukrainian government bonds plunge to their weakest level since issuance, according to Bloomberg news agency.

12:51 p.m. – Russian propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov’s show claims that the Kerch Strait incident is a provocation ordered by the United States.

12:45 p.m. – Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy, leader of the opposition Samopomich Party, looks to support introduction of martial law. “I propose we put aside questions of hidden motives (for introducing martial law)… We will ask lots of questions at the appropriate time…”

12:21 p.m. – The Armed Forces of Ukraine have published the names of three Ukrainian Navy sailors that were injured during the attack of the Russian ships. The sailors are now staying at the hospitals in Russia-occupied Crimea. They were:

12:16 p.m. – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny quipped on Twitter, making fun of Russian propaganda: “In the upcoming month, we’ll see 30 talk shows per day discussing ‘the aggressive Kyiv military backed by hawks from the Potomac’. This decision by (Russian dictator Vladimir Putin) was expected due to a major drop in his approval rating.”

11:40 a.m. Protests have been taking place next to the Russian embassy and consulates in Kyiv, Lviv, and Kharkiv. In the early hours on Nov. 26, far-right protesters rallying next to the Russian Embassy in Kyiv set on fire a car carrying a diplomatic registration plate parked near the embassy.

11:30 a.m. Russian authorities say that six Ukrainian sailors that were injured as the Russian Coast Guard ship shot and rammed the Ukrainian vessels on Nov. 25 are “in a stable condition and are feeling great.” kyivpost