Ukraine slams Russian ‘aggression’ after boat is ‘rammed’ in sea standoff

Russian jet fighters fly over a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula with a cargo ship blocking access and which led to a flare-up with three Ukraine ships. Reuters

The incident occurred in the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway between Crimea and Russian Federation that gives access to the Sea of Azov, used by Ukraine and Russian Federation.

Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko called a cabinet meeting and is communicating with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union (EU) regarding the tensions, according to Bloomberg.

"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".

According to a statement from the Ukrainian military, two Russian attack helicopters were also observed tracking Ukrainian warships.

With relations still raw after Russia's annexation of Crimea and its backing for a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, the incident risks pushing the two countries towards a wider conflict.

Videos coming from the scene show a cargo ship, accompanied by two Russian military boats blocking the passage under the arch of the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to Russia.

The Kerch bridge is seen blocked for ships entrance, near Kerch, Crimea, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018.

"Russia's provocative actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov have crossed the line and become aggressive", it said.

The two artillery boats and a tugboat "unlawfully entered a temporarily closed area of Russia's territorial sea at about 7 a.m. Moscow time", Russia's border service told the Interfax news agency.

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The ships were all captured by the Russians, reported al-Jazeera.

Ukraine has claimed Russia's coastguard has opened fire and seized three of its naval vessels off the coast of the annexed Crimea region.

Ukraine has increased the number of its navy ships and border guard patrols in the Sea of Azov.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, said in a Facebook post that Ukraine was employing "the methods of banditry".

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said "Russian special forces have taken over some ships".

Kiev insists the two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels and a tug boat, heading to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, were observing global maritime rules.

"Their goal is clear", an FSB statement said, "to create a conflict situation in the region".

About 50-100 people gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Kiev to protest Moscow's actions. It said the Ukrainian boats were towed to the nearby port of Kerch. "Maintenance of global peace and security" will be the sole item on its agenda, Polyanskiy said.

Earlier this morning, the dispute first erupted when three Ukrainian vessels attempted to travel through the Kerch Strait, the narrow body of water between Russian mainland and the Crimea, to other ports in Ukraine.

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