Ukraine : Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke of the “threat of total war” with Russia, which he said has “drastically increased” its military presence at the border, further dramatizing the already tense situation since the capture of ships Ukrainians in the Black Sea.
In a huff for Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump has threatened to cancel his scheduled meeting this weekend with his Russian counterpart at the G20 summit in Argentina.
The report on the situation that his national security advisers are due to give him shortly “will be decisive,” the US president said in an interview with the Washington Post. “Maybe I will not do this interview” with the master of the Kremlin, he warned, while the White House had just confirmed the holding of the meeting.
“I do not like this aggression, I do not want aggression,” insisted Donald Trump, often accused of being too conciliatory with Moscow.
Ukraine and Russia are engaged in their worst wrestling for several years, after Sunday’s capture by the Russian coastguards off the Crimea of three Ukrainian military boats, an unpublished incident.
“I do not want anyone to think it’s child’s play, Ukraine is facing the threat of total war with the Russian Federation,” President Poroshenko said on three Ukrainian television channels on Tuesday. .
According to him, the number of tanks in Russian military bases along the border “tripled” and the number of military units “increased drastically”.
The Ukrainian president also reported a sharp increase in the number of Russian military boats in the Sea of Azov and a reinforced Russian military presence in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.
This is the first open military confrontation between Moscow and Kiev since this annexation and the beginning of the same year of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
– “provocation” or “aggression” –
Accused of illegally crossing the Russian border, twelve Ukrainian sailors, out of the 24 detained on Sunday, were placed on remand on Tuesday until 25 January, according to the ruling of a court in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, noted an AFP journalist. The other sailors are scheduled to appear on Wednesday.
The Black Sea crash occurred when Ukrainian Navy vessels attempted to cross the Kerch Strait to enter the Sea of Azov, of crucial importance for the export of grain or steel produced in eastern Ukraine.
Russian coast guards, who depend on the security services (FSB), boarded two Ukrainian stars and a tugboat, accusing them of illegally entering Russian waters.
The incident was described as “provocative” by Russia, while Ukraine denounced an “act of aggression” from Moscow, demanding the release of the sailors and the return of the ships.
Petro Poroshenko said he tried unsuccessfully to join Vladimir Putin. “I was forced” to ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel “to talk to Putin about this incident,” he said.
In response to the incident, the Ukrainian Parliament on Monday voted to introduce martial law in the border regions, President Poroshenko justifying this initiative, unprecedented since the independence of the former Soviet republic in 1991, by “the extremely high threat “of a Russian ground offensive.
Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned Ukraine against any “thoughtless” act and expressed its “serious concern” to Angela Merkel, asking her to put pressure on Kiev.
– “Almost alone” –
Martial law, which comes into force on Wednesday in a dozen regions, will allow for one month the Ukrainian authorities to mobilize its citizens, regulate the activity of the media and limit public gatherings.
In the eyes of Vladimir Putin, “it is obvious that all this was done in connection with the election campaign in Ukraine” for the presidential election of spring.
Moscow claims to have acted “in strict accordance with international law” and accuses Kiev of seeking “a pretext to strengthen the sanctions” of the EU and Washington against Russia, already in place since 2014.
The issue of new European sanctions will be discussed at a meeting in December.
Washington, which yesterday denounced Moscow’s “illegal” action, on Tuesday urged Europeans to do “more to assist Ukraine”, including sanctions against Russia that “are not always fully implemented”.
“The US government has taken a very strong position to support Ukraine, we would like other countries to do more”, “so that the United States does not handle these issues almost alone,” insisted Tuesday the door State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.
“France is appealing to the parties to promote a calming of the situation and everyone to show restraint,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian after meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov .
These incidents occur in the context of rising tensions around the Kerch Strait that separates the Crimean peninsula from Russian territory. Russia claims control of this strait, the only sea crossing between the Black Sea and Azov Sea.