Fresh Russia - Ukraine Tensions: Boats Fired Upon, Kerch Strait Blockaded

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The crisis unfolded as two small Ukrainian warships and a tugboat were heading through the Kerch Strait, a waterway that gives access to the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea and which is used by both Ukraine and Russian Federation.

"Russian coastguard vessels... carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships", it said.

The ships - a tugboat and two gunboats - were blocked from entering the Sea of Azov after a tanker was positioned beneath the Crimean Bridge, which marks a point between the sea and the Kerch Strait.

Ukraine's navy accused Russian Federation of opening fire on and seizing three of its vessels on Sunday in a strait near Moscow-annexed Crimea, sparking alarm among Kiev's Western allies and raising fears of possible military escalation.

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"The FSB said it had been forced to act because the ships - two small Ukrainian armored artillery vessels and a tug boat - had illegally entered its territorial waters, attempted illegal actions, and ignored warnings to stop while maneuvering dangerously".

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also retweeted a comment by a US reporter in Ukraine, Nolan Peterson, who said: "Tonight, a war that many people in America can only imagine thanks to Hollywood movies, teeters on the razor-thin edge of becoming real".

Ukraine blames Russia, Russia blames Ukraine and U.S.

The Kerch Strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov has been closed to civil ships over security concerns, Russian media reported, citing sources in transport authorities. "They carry a security threat to all states of the Black Sea region, and therefore require a clear response from the worldwide community", the statement summarizes.

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Both sides have recently increased their military presence in the Azov region, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of harassing ships heading for Ukrainian ports such as Mariupol. Later, Russia scrambled two fighter jets and two helicopters to monitor the ships.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Turkey closely followed the developments and rising tension in Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, chaired an emergency meeting of his Cabinet early Monday and asked parliament to introduce martial law in response to what he described as Russian aggression.

Russia's recent actions were a violation of the United Nations' Charter as well as a violation of worldwide law, said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. It said the collision caused damage to the tugboat's engine, outer hull, and guardrail.

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Germany's foreign minister said the latest clash between the two countries, whose relations have been severely strained since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its backing for a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, was "worrying". The FSB said only three had suffered non-life threatening injuries and were given medical treatment.

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