Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Pro Patria) on Monday stated that the ship-related conflict in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov is yet another act of aggression against Ukraine, the resolution of which will require immediate steps by the international community.
Luik finds that the situation is dangerous, as a full-fledged military conflict could erupt at any moment, according to a ministry press release. Which is why the EU needs to impose further sanctions against Russia, and international observers should definitely be sent to the region, he added
According to the minister, Russia had been blocking commercial shipping in the direction of the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk since the illegally constructed Crimean Bridge, also known as the Kerch Strait Bridge, was completed, but now it has transitioned to a full-on naval blockade. Ukrainian naval ships have likewise been attacked. Both of these, Luik noted, were clear acts of aggression.
Russia is abruptly ratcheting up tensions in connection with the presidential election in Ukraine, and wants to take control of Ukraine's territorial waters, said the defence minister. It is possible, he added, that Russia's goal is to increase its land conquests in Ukraine, particularly in the Mariupol region.
Russian forces stopped two Ukrainian artillery ships and a tug on their way into the Sea of Azov on Sunday morning, ramming the tug. Russia scrambled fighter jets and helicopters as the Ukrainian vessels were approaching the only bridge across the Kerch Strait, which itself was blocked by a tanker, the BBC reported.
According to the Ukrainian government, Russian forces opened fire on the Ukrainian Navy vessels. Russia confirmed that weapons were used, adding that three Ukrainian sailors were injured.
Editor: Aili Vahtla