Russians attack Ukrainian ships

Gavin Kuncl, Writer

On November 26, Russian Coast Guard ships engaged with two Ukrainian Navy artillery ships and a tugboat near the Kerch Strait. Six Ukrainian sailors were wounded before Russian forces seized the vessels and the attached 23 crew members. The crew are now prisoners of the Russian military, with no word on the condition of the wounded sailors, or their release as a whole.

This event comes at a time where relations between the countries are more strained than ever, as Russia forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and the bloody insurgency in Eastern Ukraine has continued

In addition to these aggressive actions, Russia has been upgrading and deploying more troops and armaments to a military base in Kaliningrad, right on the doorstep of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

Ukraine said the ships were going to the Sea of Azov in line with maritime rules, with Russia counter-claiming that the ships violated international law and provoked the attack by sending ships through the Kerch Strait without permission. The Kerch Strait has importance for both countries, as it is a strategic waterway. It is a channel that separates the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko responded by declaring martial law in parts of the country  that border Russia, as well as issuing a threat that Russia would “pay a huge price” and to “Please, get out of Ukraine, Mr. Putin.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin shot back at Poroshenko, accusing the Ukrainian government of playing a “dirty game”, and that the whole event happened to give Poroshenko political points in a bid to be reelected.

The civil war in the Donbas region in Ukraine has entered its fifth bloody year. Upwards of 10000 people have been killed, with 2800 being civilians. Nearly 2 million people have been displaced. The combatants are pro- Russian separatists encouraged and supported by Russian aid, Russian Army regulars and Russian mercenaries facing off against Ukrainian Army troopers.

The European Union has called for restraint and NATO has said it was monitoring the situation.

Update 11/30/18;

Poroshenko has urged NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov due to the stand off, but NATO officials have made no comment to whether or not NATO ships will or will not be deployed. NATO has condemned Russian aggression. President Trump has cancelled a G20 meeting with Putin to send a message.

The situation has escalated a little bit, as the Ukrainian navy has been ordered to stay in port, but at combat readiness at all times.  Poroshenko has claimed to have evidence of Russian tanks massing  11 miles (or 18km) from the border. Poroshenko briefly flashed a stack of documents with writing and pictures to Sky News, but the writing and pictures were unintelligible. What has been confirmed, is that a Russian munitions stockpile, Russian anti- aircraft missile launchers and attached Russian infantry have been seen massing near the Crimean border town of Dzhankoy and entering combat readiness on Nov 29.

Poroshenko has tweeted that an immigration ban on Russian males aged 16 to 60 would be banned from entering Ukraine in order to prevent the Russians from forming ‘private armies’ on Ukraine soil. This was most likely done to avoid a repeat of the Donbas insurgency.

A spokesperson for the Kremlin, the Russian seat of power similar to the White House in the United States, named Dmitry Peskov said that Poroshenko’s actions were “clearly aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by the Ukrainian leader’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”

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