1 Dec 2018

Ukraine-Russia sea clash: Trump cancels Putin talks

6:42 am on 1 December 2018

US President Donald Trump has cancelled a planned meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over a naval clash between Ukraine and Russia.

US President Donald Trump.

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

On Sunday Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian ships and seized their crews off the Crimean Peninsula.

Mr Trump said he would not meet Mr Putin at a G20 summit in the coming days, "based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed the crisis "entirely" on Russia.

She said she would raise the issue with President Putin at the G20 meeting, which is due to be held in Argentina on Friday and Saturday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged Nato to send ships to the area.

He has implemented martial law across Ukraine's border regions for 30 days in response to the crisis.

On Thursday he announced that Russians living in Ukraine would soon face restrictions on bank withdrawals, changing foreign currency and travelling abroad.

The incident happened on Monday, when two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug were sailing from Odessa to the port of Mariupol, in the Sea of Azov - which is shared between Russia and Ukraine.

The vessels were stopped from entering the Kerch Strait and confronted by FSB border guards.

After a lengthy standoff, during which the Ukrainian tug was rammed, the ships began turning back towards Odessa, the Ukrainian government said.

The Russians opened fire, wounding at least three sailors, and seized the Ukrainian flotilla.

The Kerch Strait separates Russia from Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Ukraine says Russia is deliberately blockading Mariupol and another Ukrainian port on the Sea of Azov, Berdyansk.

The 24 captured Ukrainian sailors have now been given two months in pre-trial detention by a court in Crimea.

Mr Trump tweeted that "it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting" with Mr Putin, adding that he was looking forward to a "meaningful summit... as soon as this situation is resolved".

Today, Ms Merkel accused Russia of restricting access to the Sea of Azov by building a bridge over the Kerch Strait.

Speaking alongside Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman in Berlin today, she said the latest crisis was "entirely the doing of the Russian president" and accused Moscow of violating a 2003 agreement guaranteeing free movement in the area.

"I want the Ukrainian soldiers released," she said. "The Ukrainian side has asked us to act wisely. There is no military solution to these problems."


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