Russia reopens Kerch Strait after Ukrainian confrontation: report
- February 20, 2020
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Russia has reopened the Kerch Strait, which links the Azov Sea with the Black Sea, to civilian shipping Monday, the country’s TASS news agency reported.
The move came after Russia on Sunday opened fire on two Ukrainian armored artillery vessels and a tug boat off the coast of annexed Crimea, which Russia’s FSB security service claimed had illegally entered its territorial waters. Russian authorities then seized the three naval ships and blocked the Kerch Strait.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied the vessels had done anything wrong.
The director general of Crimean Maritime Ports, Alexei Volkov, told TASS that permission for civilian vessels to resume traveling through the channel was issued at about 4 a.m. this morning. Ships have already started moving through the strait, he said.
Several Ukrainian sailors suffered injuries during Sunday’s confrontation, according to the FSB and Ukraine.
In response to the incident, Poroshenko on Sunday asked parliament to declare martial law, which would limit civil liberties and give the state greater power. Lawmakers will consider the measures today.
Both Ukraine and Russia have requested an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting today on the incident.
The EU urged “all to act with utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately,” in a statement Sunday. “The events in the Sea of Azov are a demonstration of how instability and tensions are bound to rise when the basic rules of international cooperation are disregarded,” an EU spokesperson said.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu in a statement echoed that message, noting that the alliance “fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters.”