On Sunday, Ukraine accused Russia of opening fire on and seizing three of its ships in the Sea of Azov, off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula, according to reports from multiple news agencies. As Radio Free Europe reports:
The Ukrainian Navy says Russian forces opened fire on a group of its ships in the Black Sea off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula late on November 25, striking two warships and wounding two crew members before seizing the vessels along with a Ukrainian Navy tugboat.
The Ukrainian Navy announced the incident on a day of heightened tension after Russia reportedly blocked the three Ukrainian Navy ships from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova late on November 25 accused Ukrainian authorities are using “gangster tactics” in the Kerch Strait — first a provocation, pressure from military forces, and finally accusations of aggression.
The Ukrainian Navy later reported that six of its servicemen were wounded in the gunfight. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting with his military and security chiefs.
In a statement Sunday, a spokesperson for the European Union said, “We expect Russia to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch strait and urge all to act with utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately.”
European Union statement on events today in Sea of Azov: https://t.co/9kWZcUVi17 pic.twitter.com/dRJC0LIKpz
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) November 25, 2018
NATO similarly called for restraint:
#NATO is closely monitoring developments in the #AzovSea & #KerchStrait, & we are in contact with the #Ukrainian authorities. We call for restraint & de-escalation. Read my full statement: pic.twitter.com/DDtfvNLa4K
— Oana Lungescu (@NATOpress) November 25, 2018
Update: Through state-run media, Russia confirmed reports of the confrontation.
BREAKING: Russia shot & seized Ukrainian ships that violated its territorial waters https://t.co/bajAxoVtd9
— RT (@RT_com) November 25, 2018
This is a developing news story.