Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the incident in which three Ukrainian vessels were impounded in Kerch by the FSB after they allegedly violated Russia’s Black Sea territorial waters as a “definite provocation” by Ukraine. He was speaking during a press conference in Moscow on Sunday.
“Key provisions of international law were violated, not only of maritime law, but also general international law, including the UN Charter, including the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international legal instruments, which repeatedly require all governments to respect the sovereignty of another government,” he said.
The violation “happened in a dangerous fashion, maneuvering in a narrow strait, of course, could create a threat and risks to the normal movement of vessels in this area,” Lavrov added.
The Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) is set to discuss the introduction of martial law after the incident.
“And with the declaration of martial law, these nationalist radicals will generally feel that their hands are untied. So we strongly urge Kiev’s Western sponsors to calm down those who are now trying to earn political points for military hysteria in connection with the upcoming elections and other events in Ukraine,” the minister said.
Talking about protests outside the Russian embassy in Kiev, the Lavrov said “the radical nationalists and neo-Nazis are having field day in Ukraine, which was demonstrated by the shameful protest outside the Russian embassy in Kiev where they hurled smoke grenades. The police did not do nothing, but did not exactly try hard to stop this mayhem.”
The FSB initiated a criminal case against the crew of the Ukrainian vessels – which include missile boat Nikopol, the Gurza-class boat Berdyansk and the tugboat Yani Kapu – “for illegal trespassing of the state border.”
The FSB said weapons were used to induce the Ukrainian vessels to stop after they had performed “dangerous maneuvers.” Three Ukrainian military personnel were injured as a result and received medical attention.
According to Ukrainian authorities, their vessels had a right to pass freely through the Kerch Strait, based on international law. Moscow says it was not given advanced warning.