Russia waiting on new 'event' from Ukraine

28 December 2018 | International

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the end of martial law in the country's border regions imposed last month after Russia seized Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea.

Poroshenko said he had reached the decision “based on an analysis of all the components of the security situation in the country.”

However, Ukraine will maintain its ban on entry into the country for male Russian citizens aged 16 to 60.

More than 1 600 Russian men have been denied entry into Ukraine since the ban was imposed in late November.

The Kremlin has come under fire following the 25 November incident in the Azov Sea where the Russian coastguard confiscated two Ukrainian gunboats and a tugboat in the Kerch Strait and detained 24 crew members.

Poroshenko managed to secure the month-long martial law. He had also asked NATO to send warships to the Black Sea in response to the incident but international experts are concerned that he is trying to drag Western powers into a war.

Sigmar Gabriel, a former German foreign minister described the Kerch Strait incident as an attempt by Kiev to draw Germany into a war over Ukraine.

“I think that we by no means should allow Ukraine to drag us into the war,” he said, adding that Ukraine had tried to do so in the past.

He also urged US President Donald Trump not to distance himself from the Kerch Strait row, saying it wouldn't deter further escalation and criticised Poroshenko for calling on NATO, as well as the closure of international ports for Russian ships coming from the Sea of Azov.

A diplomatic source in Brussels told Sputnik that France, Germany and several other EU members had rejected calls to toughen sanctions against Russia over the Kerch Strait incident.

The Kremlin is of the view that Poroshenko is deliberately provoking Russia in a bid to declare martial law across the country and in that way, delay elections set for March next year.

This would make sense, taking into consideration that his current ratings stand at a meagre 8%.

Moreover, having not succeeded to pass the required martial law through his parliament, he would need another incident.

And this appears to be happening. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told media that Kiev is in fact deploying major offensive components to Donbass.

“Unfortunately, information about the Ukrainian Armed Forces' active preparations for possible military actions in Donbass have been emerging. Considerable offensive components are being deployed to the region, which then are being relocated along the entire contact line,” she said.

She added that the imposition of martial law “served to camouflage the Poroshenko regime's intention of staging a new provocation in Donbass”.

Moscow called on the Organisation of Security and Cooperation (OSCE) monitoring mission to intensify observational activities in the Donbass region as it does not rule out that Kiev might start new provocations in the region with the use of toxic substances.

The OSCE has had a special monitoring mission in Ukraine since March 2014.

Some analysts are of the view that had the Minsk agreement of 11 February 2015, commonly referred to as Minsk II, been implemented correctly and in full, this would not have happened. Kiev, it appears, must arrange these provocations from time to time, to justify non-implementation.

Put simply, in the 'circumstances of Russian aggression' Minsk cannot be implemented.

According to the Russian defence ministry, the Russian coast guard repeatedly asked the Ukrainian vessels to leave what they referred to as 'Russian territorial waters'. They said that the vessels had not followed the formal procedure for passage through the strait, that the Ukrainian ships had been manoeuvring dangerously, and that they were not responding to radio communications.

The Russians tried to halt the Ukrainian ships, but they continued moving in the direction of the bridge.

As they neared the bridge, the Russians authorities placed a large cargo ship under it, blocking their passage into the Azov Sea.

The Ukrainian ships remained moored in the strait for eight hours, before turning back to return to a port in Odessa. The Russian coast guard pursued them and seized the vessels in international waters off the coast of Crimea.

The Ukrainian government then characterised the incident as a potential precursor to a Russian invasion, and declared martial law.

According to the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, the events in the Kerch Strait were a “border incident, nothing more”.

“As for the incident in the Black Sea, this is certainly a provocation organised by the current government including the current president, on the eve of presidential elections in Ukraine in March next year.

“The current president is about fifth in presidential ratings, and there is a chance he won't make it to the second round, so he needs to do something to aggravate the situation and create insurmountable obstacles for his competitors.”

Putin questioned the imposition of martial law after such a “minor incident” adding that in 2014, when there was full-scale violence and war, no martial law was imposed.

“This is obviously being done on the eve of the presidential election,” he said.


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