In Brief

Russia seizes Ukrainian naval ships in Black Sea

At least six Ukrainian sailors have been injured as tensions between Kiev and Moscow flare

The Russian navy has reportedly fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries.

At least six Ukrainian crew members have been injured, after Russian forces opened fire on and then took control of two Ukrainian gunboats, the Berdyansk and Nikopol, and the Yana Kapa tug boat.

The Ukrainian navy says the incident began when a Russian coast guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian navy tug, resulting in damage to the tug’s engine and hull.

The Russian navy then opened fire on two other Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea, following a tense standoff as the three Ukrainian ships were transferring from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait.

Russia had earlier blockaded the Kerch Strait, mooring an oil tanker beneath a bridge and cutting off access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries. Russian fighter jets and helicopters were also reportedly spotted flying at low altitude near the Crimean Bridge.

Russia claimed that “two small Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels” had “illegally entered its territorial waters, attempted illegal actions, and ignored warnings to stop while manoeuvring dangerously”, according to Al Jazeera.

“Weapons were used with the aim of forcibly stopping the Ukrainian warships,” Russia’s FSB security service said in a statement. “As a result, all three Ukrainian naval vessels were seized in the Russian Federation’s territorial waters in the Black Sea.”

The BBC reports that Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko has described Russia’s actions as “unprovoked and crazy”, while Russia has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which has been scheduled for later today.

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