Kremlin: Putin has 'serious concern' after Ukraine declares martial law
Tensions flared up in the Kerch Strait after Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships which allegedly breached the Russian border, while Kiev denied Moscow's "provocation" allegations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed "serious concern" over Ukraine's decision to impose martial law, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
In a phone conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said he hoped "Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts," the Kremlin said in a statement.
Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the chancellor responded by stressing the need for de-escalation and dialogue.
The Ukranian parliament voted on Monday in favor of martial law in border areas for 30 days. Martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilize citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he did not like what was happening between Russia and Ukraine and was working with European leaders on the situation.
In his first public statement concerning the dispute, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States had expressed its deep concern over the incident, and Moscow and Kiev should engage directly to resolve the confrontation.
The Russian Federal Security Service (or FSB) confirmed on Monday that the Ukrainian Navy's "provocative" actions were devised by Kiev.
"The provocation was coordinated by two officers of the Security Service of Ukraine, seconded to the crews of military boats," it said in a statement.
The security service also confirmed that Russian forces opened fire and seized three Ukrainian naval ships in Russia's territorial waters in the Black Sea after they violated the Russian border.
In a separate statement, the FSB said that Kiev did not inform Russia of the Ukrainian naval ships passing through the Kerch Strait in advance as requested and ignored multiple warnings by the border guards.
Russia's missile defense command decided to carry out preventive shooting after the border agencies had "exhausted all the measures necessary" to prevent violations of the Russian laws by the Ukrainian ships, the FSB said.
Ukraine has accused Russia of "aggressive actions" in the Sea of Azov after Russia inaugurated a bridge over the Kerch Strait earlier this year and started inspecting commercial ships in the area.
Moscow rejects such accusations, saying Russia can exercise its sovereign rights in nearby waters off Crimea and the Kerch Strait is not an international passage.
Relations between Russia and Ukraine have been deteriorating since Crimea was incorporated into Russia in March 2014 following a local referendum that was rejected by Kiev and Western countries.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Ukraine's actions were "a well-thought-out provocation" aimed at inciting regional tensions and creating a pretext for tougher sanctions against Russia.
Echoing the ministry's remarks, Russian experts noted that the Ukrainian actions gained immediate support from Western countries, which are looking for fresh excuses to impose new sanctions on Russia.
"It is very difficult to prove that Russia intervened in elections in the United States and other places, while such an action is very clear. This option as an excuse to increase the sanctions pressure on Russia will pass," said Andrei Suzdaltsev, deputy dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Russia-based Higher School of Economics.