Ukraine’s leader renewed appeals to his nation’s allies in Europe and the US to punish Russia for a naval clash that’s reignited tensions between the two ex-Soviet neighbours.
With initial talk of tighter sanctions now fading and Russia so far paying little cost for firing on Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait last month, President Petro Poroshenko reiterated calls for action from the West. That could include support from NATO and a new round of penalties on President Vladimir Putin’s government, he said.
“While Western partners make strong statements, Putin acts,” Poroshenko told Bloomberg Television, urging better cooperation among Ukraine’s partners. “To act means sanctions against Russia,” and “an increased presence of NATO in the Black Sea and probably in the Azov Sea.”
The latest flare-up between Ukraine and Russia occurred off the coast of Crimea, the peninsula Putin swiped in 2014, sending relations with the West to levels not seen since the
Sanctions followed the annexation, and were tightened as the Kremlin fuelled a conflict in Ukraine’s east. With the European Union less united and President Donald Trump not keen to get involved, the response this time has been muted.
Harsh condemnations of Russia from EU leaders and some US officials are yet to translate into meaningful action. While Trump cancelled a bilateral meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aries, there was no group statement on the recent incident, in which Russia seized three Ukrainian boats and 24 crew members, since charged with illegal border crossing. Ukraine says it provided proof its ships were in international waters.
Further sanctions or the tightening of existing measures, as discussed in Europe, “is a worthy thing” and the US “will look at that as well, showing that we’re unified in pushing back on Russia,” Kurt Volker, the US envoy to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, told Voice of America. He called on Russia to release the captured sailors and vessels as a goodwill gesture before Christmas.
Ukrainian parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy urged US Vice President Mike Pence in a letter to “use all available means to stop Russian aggression towards Ukraine and stop its violation of international rules by imposing additional energy and financial sanctions.”
Poroshenko said he “hopes and prays” international pressure will help return the Ukrainian sailors.
As long as Russian aggression eases and the men are released, a 30-day period of martial law imposed in the wake of the Kerch Strait attack will expire, he said.
Poroshenko repeated a warning he’s voiced frequently in recent years, that his country is at risk of imminent invasion from Russia.
Russia warns to target US
allies if Trump exits treaty
Russia will target countries hosting US missiles if Washington goes ahead with plans to pull out of a landmark Cold War arms treaty, General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said.
“If the INF treaty is destroyed, we won’t leave it without a response,” he said in a presentation to foreign military attaches in Moscow, according to an official transcript.
“You as military professionals must understand that the target for Russian retaliation won’t be US territory but the countries where the intermediate-range missiles are deployed.”