Ukraine-Russia tensions further escalate over Kerch strait standoff

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 29.11.2018 23:51
Updated 30.11.2018 08:00

Tensions between Moscow and Kiev remain high as the two countries continue trading blame for the worst crisis in years between the neighbors. The Kremlin has sharply criticized Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's plea for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Poroshenko's request is "clearly aimed at provoking further tensions" and driven by the Ukrainian leader's "electoral and domestic policy motives."

President Poroshenko made the call in an interview with the German daily Bild published yesterday, hoping that NATO countries "are now ready to relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov to assist Ukraine and provide security," including a plea to member state Turkey to close the Bosporus to Russian vessels.

European leaders rebuffed calls from Ukraine for greater support against Russia, after Kiev urged NATO to send ships into waters disputed with Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Kiev to be "sensible" following the request from President Poroshenko, just hours after the European Union failed to agree to threaten new sanctions against Moscow. While blaming Russia for tensions, Merkel showed no signs of being ready to back military support. "We ask the Ukrainian side too to be sensible because we know that we can only solve things through being reasonable and through dialogue because there is no military solution to these disputes," she said.

As part of efforts to defuse the crisis, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to resolve tensions through dialogue and diplomacy. President Erdoğan said he discussed the possibility of Turkish mediation to resolve tensions between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov. Erdoğan made the comments yesterday morning, hours after he held separate telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Poroshenko. The president said: "Can we assume a mediator role? We discussed this subject with both sides."

Russia and Ukraine traded blame for the confrontation that raised the specter of a full-blown conflict between the neighbors. Ukraine said its vessels were heading to the Sea of Azov in line with international maritime rules, while Russia charged that they had failed to obtain permission to pass through the narrow Kerch Strait that is spanned by a bridge that Russia completed this year. The incident sharply escalated tensions that have been growing between the two countries since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

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