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Russia to deem next passage of Ukrainian ships through Kerch Strait ‘a provocation’

Earlier, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary said that Ukraine has no plans to cease the passage through the strait and didn't rule out eliminating the Crimean Bridge

MOSCOW, December 19. /TASS/. The next passage of Ukrainian ships through the Kerch Strait, announced by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Alexander Turchinov earlier, will be considered as a new irresponsible provocation, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated during Wednesday’s briefing.

"This is just an announcement of a new provocation, which has the same provocative nature," the diplomat said. "It is absolutely irresponsible. It is only meant to make the situation worse."

"Many Ukrainian partners are trying to defuse the tensions in this situation, and are actually working on finding ways of de-escalation," Zakharova noted. "To make such a statement in the context of these attempts made by several states, including EU member countries, is to confirm that provocations are the calling card of the current Kiev regime."

Earlier today, Turchinov stated in an interview with the BBC that Ukraine has no plans to cease the passage of its military vessels through the Kerch Strait, and did not rule out the possibility of eliminating the Crimean Bridge. He added that Ukraine is ready to invite representatives of the OSCE, NATO and other international organizations to be present at the Ukrainian vessels.

Kerch Strait incident

On November 26, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, endorsed President Pyotr Poroshenko’s decree on imposing a 30-day martial law in the Vinnitsa, Lugansk, Nikolayevsk, Odessa, Sumy, Kharkov, Chernigov, Donetsk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, as well as Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Sea of Azov. Initially, Poroshenko sought to impose martial law for 60 days, but this put into question holding the March presidential elections and sparked a public outcry.

The pretext for the decision to declare martial law was an incident in the Kerch Strait on November 25, when three Ukrainian warships, en route from Odessa to Mariupol, illegally crossed Russia’s state border, entered Russia’s territorial waters and started performing dangerous maneuvers.

Despite the repeated warnings and demands to stop, the Ukrainian vessels continued their way, forcing Russia to use weapons. All three Ukrainian ships were detained in the Black Sea. Three Ukrainian servicemen were slightly wounded and received medical assistance, and their lives are not under threat. A criminal case has been launched over the violation of Russia’s state border. Moscow slammed the incident as a provocation.

Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors have been detained in Russia until January 25, 2019.