Russians warn: Civil conflict possible in whole of Ukraine

Saul Bowman
December 1, 2018

The Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has told Sky News he has evidence that Russian tanks are massing along his country's border.

On Sunday, three Ukrainian naval ships attempting to sail through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov were attacked and seized by Russian forces, which believed that the ships breached the Russian border.

Ukraine toughened its stance in its increasingly tense confrontation with Russia on Friday, banning entry to all Russian men of fighting age in what Ukraine's president said was an effort to prevent the Kremlin from destabilizing the country.

With the return of Crimea, Russia now occupied both sides of Kerch Strait. "And that in five to six years the Ukrainian public will vote for more pro Russian forces", he said.

The Ukrainian intelligence agency says a Russian fighter jet and a helicopter fired rockets Sunday at three Ukrainian ships before they were captured near Russia-occupied Crimea.

Trump on Tuesday threatened to cancel planned talks with Putin at this week's G20 summit in Buenos Aires over the incident. Russian RT television on Friday broadcast footage of a convoy of massive vehicles carrying long-range Bal anti-ship missiles moving toward Kerch, near the area where the naval incident occurred. "Putin wants to annex another part of Ukraine, he's behaving the same way", Poroshenko warned, alluding to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. But, by asserting that the vessels entered Russian waters illegally, not to mention escalating tensions with the West, Putin may be hoping to breathe new life into the siege narrative, thereby inspiring the kind of primitive patriotism on which he has long relied.

Separately, a Reuters correspondent in Crimea on Wednesday observed a Russian navy minesweeper ship, the Vice-Admiral Zakharin, heading for the Sea of Azov.

The fact that no North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member is presently planning to send any ships to the Azov Sea-not even a short friendly visit-will hardly calm the Russian nightmare assessment of the West suddenly achieving naval superiority there. Three Ukrainian military vessels - two gunboats and a tug - tried to sail through the strait without getting proper permission from Moscow.

Porshenko has claimed that Putin wants "nothing less" than to occupy the Sea of Azov.

A view of the Crimean Bridge across the Kerch Strait is closed for the passage of civil vessels after there was reportedly an altercation between Russian and Ukrainian ships, November 25, 2018.

He said that it had been organised by Ukraine's authorities "and, I think, the incumbent president in the run-up to the Ukrainian presidential election in March 2019".

The Ukrainian parliament on Monday also adopted a motion from Poroshenko to impose martial law in the country for 30 days in the wake of the standoff.

Ukraine has announced martial law for 30 days in its 10 regions that border Russian Federation, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. They ignored legitimate demands to stop issued by vessels belonging to the FSB Border Service and the Black Sea Fleet and continued maneuvering dangerously.

But the incident has prompted renewed calls for more Western sanctions on Russian Federation.

According to their lawyer, Russian Federation has transferred the Ukrainian sailors - sentenced to two months of detention - from Crimea to Moscow.

Ukraine's foreign ministry sent Moscow a diplomatic note in protest at the "illegal" detentions.

Tusk said Russia's use of force against the Ukrainian navy vessels was "totally unacceptable". "The objective of Russia's military aggression is to establish full control over the Black Sea to influence the countries of the region".

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