Ukraine moved closer to martial law Monday, one day after Russia captured three Ukrainian ships sailing in open waters.
The incident took place in the Sea of Azov, which is near Crimea — the part of Ukraine Russia invaded in 2014. The sea is considered open waters for both Russia and Ukraine.
Britain’s The Mirror reported that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had signed off on the decree creating martial law through January 25, and that the only thing awaiting implementation was legislative approval.
The order said martial law is necessary to “create conditions for repression of armed aggression and ensuring national security, eliminating threats to the state independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Ukraine will also move to full combat readiness.
RT @USUN: “This is no way for a law-abiding civilized nation to act. Impeding Ukraine’s lawful transit through the Kerch Strait is a violation under international law. It is an arrogant act that the international community must condemn and will never accept.”
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) November 26, 2018
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Monday called the Russian action an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and “another reckless Russian escalation.”
“In the name of international peace and security, Russia must immediately cease its unlawful conduct and respect the navigational rights and freedoms of all states,” Haley said at the U.N. Security Council, NPR reported.
Haley said she spoke for “the highest level at the American government,” after conferring with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The incident spurred fears that war could erupt.
“Even at this early stage, the incident marks a significant escalation of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” said Alex Brideau, director of the program covering Russia, Eurasia and Ukraine at Eurasia Group, according to CNBC.
“Furthermore, the Russian government is not denying its role in the fighting, unlike in past cases. The incident in the Kerch Strait and the Ukrainian reaction so far carry geopolitical implications, as well as effects on Ukraine’s domestic politics,” Brideau said.
Maxim Tucker, an expert on Ukraine with the Open Society Foundations, said the incident was a “dramatic” escalation
“It is the first time the Russian military has openly fired on the Ukrainian military and claimed responsibility for it,” he said.
Three things brought the simmering tensions between Ukraine and Russia to a boil.
First, a Russian ship rammed a tug, which was one of the three ships the Russians later captured. Second, Russia maneuvered a massive tanker to block access to the Sea of Azov. Third, at least six Ukrainian sailors were wounded when Russia opened fire on the Ukrainian vessels.
Poroshenko called the incident “a brutal violation of international law” and demanded the sailors’ release.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, labeled it “military hysteria.”
The forces engaged to date are small, but the stakes are large, commentators told NBC.
If Ukraine loses access to the sea, its major port city of Mariupol dries up and about half the nation’s coastline no longer has water access.
“Russia sees the Sea of Azov as an area where it can impose huge pressure on Ukraine,” said Michael Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon.
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