Ukraine imposes martial law amid 'growing aggression with Russia'

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Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) Border Service in Crimea reported that three Ukrainian warships had illegally entered Russia's territorial waters, and were carrying out risky maneuvers, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

"They did not respond to legitimate demands by the ships and boats of Russia's FSB Border Guard Service escorting them to stop immediately and performed risky maneuvers", the FSB said, according to TASS.

Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, on Monday released videos of three of the sailors in what appeared to be coerced confessions. Three Ukrainian vessels-two gunboats and one tug-were sailing through the Kerch Strait off the Crimean Peninsula when they were confronted by Russian warships, helicopters and fighter jets.

In response to the incident, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a motion by the president to impose martial law for 30 days, something that Ukraine avoided doing even when Russian Federation annexed its Crimean peninsula or sent in clandestine troops and weapons to the war-torn east.

But Russian authorities and state media said it was Ukraine which caused the situation, because its ships had performed "dangerous manoeuvres" in a zone that had been "temporarily closed" by Russia in a heavily-militarised area after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

During an emergency UN Security Council meeting to defuse rising tensions after the confrontation, US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident "yet another reckless Russian escalation" and demanded that the Kremlin release the sailors.

Hundreds of protesters from the National Corps party waved flares in the snowy streets of Kiev outside parliament and accused the president of using martial law to his own ends.

"I realized that the actions of the Ukrainian navy ships were of a provocative nature", he said.

The tentative solution hashed out by Merkel and Putin, Seibert reported, was "an analysis of the incident with the participation of Russian and Ukrainian border-security experts". "This should be the stance of a court", the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters during a conference call.

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Allies will not recognise Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. It is an important economic lifeline for Ukraine, as it allows its ships to access the Black Sea.

US President Donald Trump suggested it was up to European governments to handle the crisis.

Kiev has accused Moscow of blocking access for Ukrainian ships through the strait, the only way in and out of the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian navy said six sailors were wounded when Russian coastguards opened fire late on Sunday on three Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait and then seized them.

"I know these sailors, they were always professional". A newly built Russian bridge opened by Putin himself now spans the strait, which Moscow hopes will solidify its claim to adjoining Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula it forcibly annexed in 2014.

Vasily Gritsak, head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), confirmed that counterintelligence officers were on the ships which entered Russian waters in the Kerch Strait on Sunday.

In recent months both sides had deployed more naval and border vessels to the area. Sunday's conflict, Moscow says, was "thoroughly planned and orchestrated" to distract Ukrainians from domestic problems ahead of their March 2019 presidential election.

"This incident provides further evidence of Russia's destabilising behaviour in the region and its ongoing violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity".

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