RUSSIA has admitted to opening fire on Ukrainian ships and capturing three vessels in the latest Crimea flare-up.


Three Ukrainian sailors were injured after two of gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian special forces following a chase – prompting the president to call an emergency summit of his war cabinet.


Russian fighter jets fly over the Crimean Bridge after three Ukrainian vessels were stopped by Russia from entering the sea of Azov
Reuters





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A Russian coastguard vessel, named the Don, rammed one of its tugboats in “openly aggressive actions”, the Ukrainian Navy said.


Three sailors were wounded after one of their small artillery boats was hit in the strikes.


Earlier today Russia stopped three Ukrainian navy vessels from entering the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait by placing a huge cargo ship beneath the Crimean Bridge, built by Russia and opened this year.


Initially Moscow claimed that Ukraine’s actions were a “provocation” and that the ships had turned back. Hours later, the Russian Security Service (FSB) confirmed it had used weapons to stop the vessels from entering Russian waters illegally and had seized all three vessels.


Footage appears to show a Russian ship ramming into a Ukrainian artillery vessel

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has called an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis
Getty – Contributor

Russia has admitted to seizing three of Ukraine’s ships
Getty – Contributor

The three Ukrainian ships were allegedly heading for the port of Mariupol. All three Ukrainian sailors were given medical assistance by the Russian serviceman, the FSB said. Their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.


Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has now called an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis.


Foreign ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa said: “Today’s dangerous events in the Azov Sea testify that a new front of [Russian] aggression is open.


“Ukraine [is] calling now for emergency meeting of United Nations Security Council.”



Two of Ukraine’s small armoured artillery ships including the Berdyansk, pictured, were damaged before being seized
Ukrainian Ministry of Defence

Russian fighter jets fly over a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula
Reuters

This tugboat and two artillery ships were seized by Russia
Getty – Contributor

Ukraine has condemned Russia’s actions as “openly aggressive”.


Tensions have risen in the seas off the Crimean peninsula – annexed by Russia in 2014 – in recent months.


Russia’s use of a cargo ship effectively blocks all traffic into the strait, the only passage into the Sea of Azov.


Since 2003 countries have had the right to use the strait, but since the annexation Moscow has controlled the land on both sides.


In this photo handout from Ukrainian Navy, a screen appears to show Russian border guard vessel Don trying to stop a Ukrainian Navy tug boat
Reuters

The Ukrainian Navy issued this photo after a Russian coast guard vessel rammed a Ukrainian navy tugboat near Crimea
AP:Associated Press

Marine traffic tracker website VesselFinder.com showed several dozen ships anchored near the strait, waiting for the dispute to be resolved.


In a statement, the Ukrainian navy said the Berdyansk and the Nikopol gunboats were hit and disabled as they tried to leave the area.


It said the tug was forced to stop.


Russia earlier scrambled two fighter jets and two helicopters to monitor the Ukrainian vessels.













In a statement, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Russia had “crossed the line”.


“Russia’s provocative actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov have crossed the line and become aggressive,” the statement said.


“Russian ships have violated our freedom of maritime navigation and unlawfully used force against Ukrainian naval ships.”




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