Tensions Rise Between Russia and Ukraine Amid Kerch Strait Incident; Ukraine Navy Ship Shot and Seized

By Aaron Kesel

Tensions have risen between Russia and Ukraine as Moscow rammed and shot at Ukrainian Navy ships on Sunday allegedly for invading its territorial waters. Ukraine has declared martial law in response and NATO countries are convening for an emergency meeting, while Russia and the U.S. called for an emergency UN meeting.

The move comes a day after the Ukrainian Navy said Russia fired on some of its ships in the Kerch Strait near Crimea, hitting two vessels and injuring six crew members. Russia then seized both ships and a tugboat, Ukraine said.

A video shows a Russian vessel ramming a Ukrainian ship, while another picture shows unknown damage to a Russian RFCGS 354 ‘Izumrud’, a Rubin Class patrol ship, deployed at Kerch bridge.

Other countries’ officials have also condemned the action by Russia “as an act of aggression” stating the country “violated international maritime law.”

Michael Roth, a deputy foreign minister of Germany, stated to Deutschlandfunk radio the matter is “very dangerous — the last thing we need is a further escalation in relations between Russia and Ukraine.”

Roth added he did not have any information on the incident, “but it is clear that Russia, in accordance with international law, must ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian harbors in the Sea of Azov.”

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu stated the military alliance is calling for “restraint and de-escalation” over the incident in the Black Sea.

She said NATO supports Ukraine’s “navigational rights in its territorial waters” and calls on Russia “to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.”

He added that “both sides must now de-escalate” and avoid a spiral of tensions that “could ultimately lead to terrible consequences.”

The Ukrainian army has published radio communication of the Russian coast guard during the incident near the Kerch Strait according to Moscow Bureau Chief of DerSPIEGEL. Christian Esch.

“An interesting point within that audio is that an Officer says “Medvedev (vice admiral, head of FSB’s coast guard) is in panic, it looks like the president himself is controlling this shit,” Esch tweeted linking to a YouTube video.

As a result of this, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko submitted a declaration of martial law to lawmakers. On Monday, Poroshenko’s request passed as 276 lawmakers backed the proposal for martial law.

With the decree in place, authorities in Ukraine now have the power to restrict public rallies and regulate the media, the BBC reported.

The proposition will remain in effect for 30 days until Jan. 25th and issues a call for a partial mobilization of the Ukrainian military to defend the border and major government and industrial sites against potential further aggression. In other words, part of the country is under martial law.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stated the U.N. Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon over the clash.

Russia blamed Ukraine for sparking tensions on Sunday, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claiming Russian ships were reacting to an “incursion” by Ukrainian boats.

Haley described the incident as an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.” She further called on Russia to “immediately cease its unlawful conduct” in the Black Sea near Crimea.

The secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, also said there was “no justification” for the seizure of the Ukrainian ships and sailors.

Meanwhile, there have been violent protests in Kiev and demonstrations outside Russian embassies across the world, including in London, Washington DC, and Brussels.

A 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov (off the coast of Crimea) as shared territorial waters. Russia has sought further control over the waters after the referendum in Crimea in 2014.

This comes after the Ukraine faked the death of anti-Kremlin, 41-year-old former Russian soldier-turned-journalist Arkady Babchenko who was said to have been murdered by Russia.

Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) chief Vasily Gritsak further stated Russian security services were behind the plot and agents had apprehended the man responsible for the hit. Gritsak showed a video of them taking a short, overweight man into custody on May 30th according to media reports. He added that killing Babchenko was part of a larger alleged plot by Russian security services. The Ukrainian man also was supposed to procure large quantities of weapons and explosives, including 300 AK-47 rifles and “hundreds of kilos of explosives,” to perpetrate acts of terror in Ukraine.

So here you see the geopolitical games at play going from blaming Russia for the murder of a journalist to accusing Russia of wanting to stage terror attacks in Ukraine.

Russia denied involvement in any murder plot, while Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later said Moscow was glad to hear Babchenko was alive but criticized Ukraine for staging a potential “provocation.”

Russia denied any involvement in any murder plot, while Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later said Moscow was glad to hear Babchenko was alive but criticized Ukraine for staging a potential “provocation.”

Last year around this time, U.S. President Donald Trump sneakily gifted Ukraine with American lethal defensive weaponry; Russia has responded warning the United States that a red line has been crossed.

The Eastern European country has been reliant on support from Washington since pro-Western government forces overthrew the Ukrainian leadership in 2013, as warned by Ukraine Deputy Oleg Tsarov prior. Paid CIA snipers hired by Maidan leaders subsequently shot at protesters and police, according to Polish former presidential candidate Janusz Korwin-Mikke and Urmas Paet.

A leaked phone call further confirmed the assumption that the U.S. planned a coup in Ukraine.

The audio uploaded online showed Victoria Nuland, the then-top U.S. diplomat in Europe, and Geoff Pyatt, the U.S. envoy to Kiev, discussing the merits of Ukraine’s various opposition figures and if things were in place. In the recording, Nuland can also be heard saying “f**k the EU,” if they aren’t ready for their alleged plot and to go ahead without them.

Estonian Foreign Minister and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Urmas Paet, collaborated and confirmed that snipers had shot at both police and protesters in a conversation with EU foreign Security Policy Catherine Ashton when an additional tape was leaked by Officers of Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) loyal to the ousted President Viktor Yanukovich. Paet said that snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders.

In fact, Nuland even admitted the subversive actions the U.S. was taking in Ukraine for the past few decades during a public speech where she stated the “U.S. has spent five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) to subvert Ukraine,” assuring her listeners that there are prominent businessmen and government officials who support the U.S. project to tear Ukraine away from its historic relationship with Russia and into the U.S. sphere of interest (via “Europe”).

The current U.S. administration’s policy on Ukraine is dangerous with Trump sending Lethal Defensive Weapons to Ukraine last Christmas, Activist Post reported.

One of those weapons, the Javelin missile system, was tested in May of this year for the first time since receiving the weapons from the United States, Reuters reported.

U.S Secretary of Defense James Mattis has previously stated the U.S.’s position that Russia has not abided by the Minsk ceasefire agreement meant to end separatist violence in eastern Ukraine.

“Despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe,” Mattis told reporters.

Trump has previously accused Russia of taking Crimea by force in a series of tweets; and his White House stated that the U.S. president expected the annexed Black Sea peninsula to be returned to Ukraine, Reuters reported.

There is also the problem of troop build-up around the region, so much so that Poland has offered to pay a massive $2 billion to the U.S. to develop a permanent military base as protection against Russian aggression, Express.co.uk reported.

But Russia isn’t the only one aggravating the situation. In January of last year, scores of tanks and other U.S. military vehicles, as well as 3,500 troops, were sent to Germany and Poland to take part in a military operation.

Then in mid-March last year, U.S. and Polish forces conducted another drill in Poland, and Russia responded by conducting unexpected exercises, according to Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Spokesperson for NATO Andriy Lysenko.

Following in April, the United States lead a battalion of NATO troops in northeastern Poland.

Finally, in May last year, the drills expanded into Romania across the Black Sea from Crimea. June saw NATO allies run another drill named Anakonda-16, which included a nighttime helicopter assault practice and the dropping of U.S. paratroopers to build a temporary bridge. That drill saw the participation of an estimated 30,000 troops.

These drills were then followed in September by Russia’s own annual exercise a large-scale drill dubbed Zapad (West) where NATO estimated 100,000 people in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia took place. However, the real numbers were 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, 250 tanks and 200 artillery systems and 10 navy ships and they posed no threat,” according to Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin.

U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, stressed that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is not economically viable and does not create new opportunities for the European Union. Volker further expressed that the project put Ukraine in an even more vulnerable position.

To recap – Moscow was blamed for troop build-up in Ukraine in March a few months ago where Russia was said to have troops ready to launch a rapid invasion of Ukraine from the north and east, according to a March 8th report by the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based defense think tank (which has since deleted the report) [archived]. Then Russia was blamed for the poisoning of a former Soviet spy and his daughter. Now Russia is being blamed for the downing of MH17 and more recently potential terrorism campaigns in Ukraine and a plot to assassinate a journalist. All without providing publicly viewable evidence that shows Russia helped plot terrorism.

Since the Institute for the Study of War deleted the document alleging Russia was about to invade Ukraine I did some research into the think tank.

Founded in 2007 by Kim Kagan, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that has supported long-term U.S. military intervention abroad, particularly in countries in the Greater Middle East.

In the past, ISW has often provided a podium for top military brass who have advocated for the escalation of U.S. military invasions. Notably, in January 2010, General David Petraeus spoke at an ISW hosted event promoting the “surge” in Iraq. Petraeus argued that “far more important than the surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops was the surge of ideas that helped us to employ those troops, and that surge of forces enabled the employment of the new ideas that were indeed the key to making the progress that has been achieved in Iraq over the course of the last three years.”

ISW played such an important role promoting the 2007 “surge” in Iraq. That in 2009 the organization released a film called “The Surge: the Untold Story,” a 34-minute documentary that covered the Iraq surge positively and included interviews with key players in the war and the surge strategy, including Gen. Raymond Odierno and Amb. Ryan Crocker,” Right Web reported.

Less than 6 months ago in September Russia held its annual fall military exercises, Vostok-2018, in collaboration with China.

The two countries joined together for various drills, with 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, 36,000 combat vehicles and as many as 80 ships that were involved, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. While China had a lesser number of troops on the ground estimated at 3,000 soldiers along with aircraft and helicopters.

The drills took place across five different training areas, as well as the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, and were seen as the largest drills in decades NPR, reported.

Those war drums just keep on beating louder and louder.

Several nations have urged Russia to give back the Ukrainian ships it seized. U.S. president Donald Trump stated the U.S. doesn’t approve of escalating violence “either way” between Russia and Ukraine.

We do not like what’s happening, either way, we don’t like what’s happening and hopefully it will get straightened out.

Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at this week’s G-20 summit in Argentina where the two leaders are now expected to talk about this latest incident among other topics. U.S. lawmakers are urging Trump to arm Ukraine.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s ranking member, most likely to become committee chairman when the House comes under Democratic control in January, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y, essentially called for war. While, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla, threatened further new sanctions against Russia.

“We have to work with our allies in the NATO alliance, and what bothers me is President Trump has trashed the NATO alliance,” Engel told Defense News on Monday. “It’s very difficult when you have the president cozying up to Putin once again, not having a very strong response so far — letting Putin think there will be a lot of handwringing and talk, but not a lot of action.”

“I think it was pretty poor taste and timing for the president to issue a statement about burden-sharing at a time when Russian expansion is full blown,” Engel added. “That sends a message to Russia that we’re thrashing our allies and not going to be willing to work in tandem with them and the NATO alliance.”

“If Putin starts seeing Russian soldier fatalities, that changes his equation,” Engel said.

That or maybe Putin will strike back with China and we will be in the middle of world war three.

The U.S. and Ukraine have been in “close discussion” with Washington to supply another cache of lethal weapons for Kiev’s fight in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told reporters Nov. 18, a day after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, Defense News, reported.

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.

Top image credit: Hawaii Telegraph

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