Ukrainian navy ship sails away from Russian waters after ‘provocation’ – Moscow
A Ukrainian naval vessel that was reportedly sailing dangerously close to Russian waters on Thursday evening has changed course and is now moving away, local officials have said.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) released a statement earlier saying that the Ukrainian command ship ‘Donbass’ was sailing toward the Kerch-Yenikalsky canal, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, near Crimea, without prior notification to the Russian side.
According to the FSB, the intruder initially did not respond to demands to change course, but later turned around and began to sail away from Russian waters.
“We view the actions of Ukrainian ship’s crew as provocative and a threat to the safety of navigation,” the FSB said.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov told lb.ua that the ‘Donbass’ was unarmed and spoke about “yet another case of disinformation by the Russian side.”
“In general, the waters of the Azov Sea are the waters of joint usage. We’re operating there on legal grounds,” Reznikov said.
The FSB said that that the ship was sailing at a distance of 18 nautical miles from the Kerch Strait before changing course.
In a brief statement on social media, Ukraine’s military said that the ship was operating in Ukrainian territorial waters without entering “sensitive areas.” It added that the vessel was returning to its home base.
The 'Donbass' is a former Soviet auxiliary ship that was converted by the Ukrainian Navy into a flagship for its fleet following the dissolution of the USSR. In 2014, it was briefly seized along with several other Ukrainian vessels when a number servicemen stationed in Crimea defected to Russia. The ship was returned to Kiev later that year after Crimea voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia.
The incident came just as US President Joe Biden is set to hold a call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. This follows talks on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House confirmed earlier this week that Biden plans to discuss ways to resolve mounting tensions between Kiev and Moscow.
Biden and Putin spoke for roughly two hours via video link after claims by Western politicians and the media that Russian was amassing troops and military hardware for a potential invasion of Ukraine. Moscow repeatedly denied accusation of gearing up to attack its neighbor.
According to the Kremlin, Putin told Biden that Russia was seeking guarantees that NATO would not expand further eastwards, despite Kiev’s ambitions to join the US-led military bloc. The move, which could see more Western troops and military hardware stationed along Russian border, is viewed by Moscow as a ‘red line’.
During the conversation with Putin, Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for “de-escalation and a return to diplomacy,” the White House said.