Russia warns Ukraine of escalation in Crimea over martial law
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Ukraine is to blame for the confrontation in Crimea, as Moscow warned that the conflict could escalate because of Kiev’s decision to declare martial law.
In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, Putin said he is “seriously concerned” about the weekend’s incident.
He said Ukraine provoked the confrontation for political reasons.
Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said the chancellor in the conversation with Putin stressed the need for de-escalation and dialogue.
Hours after the phone call, the Kremlin issued a follow-up statement denouncing the martial law in Ukraine.
“The imposition of martial law in some regions may pose a risk of escalating tensions in the conflict-hit region, namely the south-east,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by the state news agency, TASS, on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s leadership responded to the clash, between the Ukrainian navy and Russia’s coastguard, by imposing martial law throughout much of the country on Monday.
On Tuesday, the country’s state security service announced that its intelligence officers were among the crew on Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russia.
The SBU agency said the officers were fulfilling counterintelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy, in response to “psychological and physical pressure” by Russian spy services.
It did not elaborate but demanded that Russia stop such activity.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Kiev, said that the SBU has acknowledged that two fighter jets opened fire with missiles on three Ukrainian boats on Sunday.
“This hasn’t been heard of before,” Simmons said, adding that there were injuries during the incident.
Earlier, Russia’s main intelligence agency released a video of three seized Ukrainian crew members allegedly involved in the incident on Sunday.
The FSB put out the video on Tuesday, showing interviews with three seamen, all of whom confirmed that they violated the Russian border.
It was not immediately possible to ascertain if the men were talking under duress. One of them was clearly reading from a teleprompter.
Pro-Russian separatist groups, which Russia has represented in negotiations, and the Ukrainian military have been battling in Ukraine’s two eastern-most regions for the past four years.
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With tensions spilling over, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas suggested on Tuesday that Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine could work together to resolve the tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
“We must do everything for de-escalation, to prevent this crisis from turning into an even more serious crisis for security in Europe,” Maas said.
He called on the two parties to show the greatest possible restraint and offered to work on a solution to end the crisis.