Ukraine's ports partially unblocked by Russian Federation, says Kiev

Piotr Sivkov  TASS

Piotr Sivkov TASS

Omelyan, who accused Russian Federation last week of blocking Ukrainian cargo trying to pass through the strait, said the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol were partially unblocked thanks to a "stern worldwide response".

President Petro Poroshenko is fearful that Putin could try to seize the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, located around the Sea of Azov.

The situation came to a head late last month when Russian Federation fired at, damaged and subsequently seized three Ukrainian navy vessels, along with 24 crew members who now face charges of illegal border crossing.

"After Poroshenko said that Russian Federation is allegedly planning to seize Mariupol and Berdyansk, I can say, putting his own pronouncements in other words, that it is Russian Federation that protects Europe from barbarism, tyranny, terrorism, aggression and militarism looming large over our continent", she wrote on her Facebook account.

Stoltenberg said Ukrainian military and civilian ships "have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov".

Mariupol and Berdyansk were "partially unblocked", said Volodymyr Omelyan.

According to the Ukrainian government, the Russian guards confronted the Ukrainian vessels and sparked a "lengthy standoff" that resulted in the Russians ramming into the other country's ships before taking the crews and departing from the scene. It highlighted what it called discriminatory inspections of ships bound for Ukrainian ports, saying the checks violate maritime law and the countries' bilateral treaties.

Poroshenko said Monday that some reservists will be summoned for training as part of martial law.

But Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, charged that the Ukrainian boats entered its territorial waters without permission.

The Kerch Strait is the only passage to and from the Black Sea and the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Its president, Petro Poroshenko, imposed martial law on November 26 in parts of the country deemed most vulnerable to Russian attack.

Peskov rejected Kiev's claim that Russian Federation was blocking traffic to and from Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, saying that navigation has continued normally except for occasional breaks because of bad weather.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko looks likely to be disappointed in his call for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to deploy naval vessels to the Sea of Azov, an offshoot of the Black Sea.

He said that when the incident happened, he instructed his office to set up a call with the Kremlin leader to say "we are ready for this negotiation to de-escalate. and unfortunately, until now, Putin did not answer my request for a direct phone conversation".

Moscow accuses the 24 sailors of illegally entering Russian waters by trying to pass through the strait.

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