Fears of military coup in Ukraine has gained momentum after the news of seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships by force in a strait near Moscow-annexed Crimea by Russia came out.
Ukraine’s navy had accused Russia of the unprecedented incident including firing on its vessels in the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway that gives access to the Sea of Azov that is used by Ukraine and Russia.
“In order to stop the Ukrainian military ships, weapons were used,” Russia’s FSB security service said, confirming that “three Ukrainian navy ships were boarded and searched.”
Ukraine’s navy said the incident took place as two small warships and a tugboat were heading through the strait for the port of Mariupol.
It said a Russian border guard vessel rammed the tugboat in “openly aggressive actions” and then fired on the ships, immobilising all three.
It also said the Kerch Strait was blocked by a tanker, and that Russian military aircraft were flying over the area.
Ukraine said six of its soldiers were injured, while the FSB reported only three had suffered non-life threatening injuries and were given medical treatment.
“Having breached this morning the Russian border, the three Ukrainian ships — the Berdyansk, the Nikopol and the Yani Kapu — tried again on November 25 at 19:00 (Moscow time) to conduct illegal actions in Russian territorial waters,” the FSB said.
The FSB, which oversees the border guard service, also said the Ukrainian ships had failed to respond to the “legal demands” of the Russian authorities and that they were aiming “to create a conflict situation in this region.”
The European Union issued a statement saying: “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.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said it considered “these aggressive actions” a violation of international law that would be met with “an international and diplomatic legal response”, and its envoy to the United Nations said on Twitter that the country will make an immediate appeal to the Security Council.
Russia for its part accused Kiev of illegally entering its waters and deliberately provoking a conflict. Moscow claims the waters off Crimea after annexing the peninsula in 2014.