Russia says Ukraine martial law could worsen tensions in country's east

International | Written by : IANS| Updated:

Russia says Ukraine martial law could worsen tensions in country's east

Moscow  :   The Kremlin said Tuesday that Ukraine's decision to enforce martial law in several of its provinces would risk heightening tensions in the country's east, where Ukrainian forces loyal to Kiev have been pitted against pro-Russian rebels for years.

Ukrainian lawmakers on Monday passed a motion to impose martial law in 10 of its 27 regions starting Wednesday, after Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels on Sunday in waters near the disputed Crimean peninsula, an act that has been condemned by Western institutions such as NATO and the European Union.

"The imposition of martial law in several regions could potentially raise the risk of an escalation in the regions of conflict," Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin's spokesperson, said, Efe news reports.

Insurgents allegedly backed by Russia have been in control of the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk -- an area collectively known as the Donbass -- since 2014, the same year that Moscow annexed Crimea following the revolution in Ukraine that ousted the pro-Russia former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier Tuesday to express his concern over the growing tensions between Moscow and Kiev.

Putin told Merkel in a telephone conversation that the Ukrainian government "bears full responsibility for creating another conflict situation and for risks associated with it".

The Russian leader also described the presence of Ukrainian vessels near the Kerch Strait in Crimea on Sunday as "provocative" and in "gross violation of norms of international law", according to the Kremlin.

"Vladimir Putin expressed hope that Berlin will influence the Ukrainian authorities and keep them from making further hasty decisions," a Kremlin statement said.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has called on the international community to impose more sanctions against Russia for seizing the three vessels.

Moscow said the ships were seized in Russian waters after they tried to pass through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea into the Azov Sea, a journey that skirts the Crimean peninsula.

Moscow recently completed construction on a bridge over the strait, connecting mainland Russia to the Crimea.

At the time of the incident, a Russian cargo ship blocked the passage underneath the $3.69 billion bridge.
Meanwhile, in a joint press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drain, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that no mediation was necessary between Russia and Ukraine over the seizing of the three Ukrainian naval vessels.

Lavrov accused Ukraine of intentional provocations, claiming the Ukrainian ships could have taken an alternative route and avoided the clash altogether.

The Russian diplomat went on to state that neither the United Nations Security Council nor the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe or any other supra-national organisation had any business in the matter.

Lavrov also said he would correct the EU by stating that the naval conflict did not take place in the Sea of Azov but the Black Sea, both of which are connected by the narrow strait of Kerch.