Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has warned of the threat of “full-scale war” with Russia as tensions escalated between the two countries over the detention of Ukrainian navy vessels in the Kerch Strait.
The president told national television on Tuesday: “I don’t want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia.”
The number of Russian units deployed along the Ukraine-Russian border had “grown dramatically” and the number of Russian tanks had tripled, Poroshenko said, citing intelligence reports but giving no precise timescale for the buildup.
The diplomatic fallout continued, with US President Donald Trump warning he might cancel a long-awaited meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires this week. He told the Washington Post it would depend on the results of a report about the incident. “Maybe I won’t have the meeting,” he said. “I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”
Meanwhile, a court in Crimea has ordered the Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia at the weekend to be detained for two months.
Twelve of the 24 sailors being held by Moscow were ordered to be held in pre-trial detention for two months by a court in the city of Simferopol in Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. More are to appear before the court on Wednesday.
The sailors face a charge of illegally crossing Russian borders, which carries a sentence of up to six years in prison, according to an investigator quoted by Russian news agencies.
Russian border forces fired on and seized three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch strait, which separates Crimea from the Russian mainland, on Sunday. At least three sailors were wounded. Ukraine says they were travelling in shared waters on a routine passage to the Sea of Azov, which they have a right to patrol under a bilateral treaty.
The crisis between the two countries has provoked international condemnation and talk of fresh western sanctions against Moscow.
Russian state television broadcast interrogations with three of the sailors on Tuesday, eliciting confessions that appeared to be made under duress. “I recognise that the actions of the ships with military hardware of Ukraine’s navy had a provocative character,” said one of the sailors, who identified himself as Vladimir Lisov. “I was carrying out an order.”
Kiev denounced what it described as forced confessions. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, told the Associated Press that he had asked the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross to arrange a visit to the prisoners and that he was waiting for a Russian response. “It’s not a political issue here, because we can have an argument about the legal status, but it’s about simply concentrating on protecting them and helping them,” he said.
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Source: The Guardian