Ukraine intelligence says officers were on ships seized by Russia

Ukraine intelligence says officers were on ships seized by Russia

Ukraine intelligence says officers were on ships seized by Russia

Ukraine’s state security service has said that its intelligence officers were among the crew on Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russia in a standoff near Crimea.

The SBU agency said in a statement on Nov. 27 that the officers were fulfilling counterintelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy, in response to “psychological and physical pressure” by Russian spy services. It didn’t elaborate, but demanded that Russia stop such activity.

Russia’s FSB intelligence agency said late on Nov. 26 that that there were SBU officers on board the Ukrainian ships, calling that proof of a “provocation” staged by Ukraine.

Both countries traded blame after Russian border guards on Nov. 25 opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels and eventually seized them and their crews. The incident put the two countries on war footing and raised international concern.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is urging Russia and Ukraine to refrain from “any further provocations” and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions after the two countries’ standoff near Crimea.

The Vienna-based OSCE, which has a monitoring mission in Ukraine, urged both sides in a statement on Nov. 27 to refrain from using force and settle any disputes by peaceful means.

OSCE secretary general Thomas Greminger urged Moscow and Kiev “to exercise restraint, step back from any further provocations and immediately engage in dialogue to reduce the risk of further tensions in the region.”

The Kremlin warned that martial law that is to go into effect in parts of Ukraine on Nov. 28 might lead to an escalation in the rebel-held east.

Ukraine adopted late on Nov. 26 a bill that introduces martial law in several regions, including those bordering the separatist-held areas.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Nov. 27 that martial law might trigger a flare-up in hostilities in the east.

Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 but the hostilities have largely subsided since a truce was signed in 2015.

Germany’s foreign minister has suggested that Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine could work together to resolve tensions between Moscow and Kiev following the weekend’s incident near Russian-annexed Crimea.

Germany and France brokered a 2015 accord to end violence in eastern Ukraine, most of whose provisions remain unfulfilled. The two European powers have met at various levels with Russia and Ukraine over recent years in the so-called Normandy Format. Foreign ministry political directors from the four countries held a previously scheduled meeting Nov. 26.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin has “called on Russia and Ukraine to show the greatest possible restraint, and offered to work on a solution in the Normandy Format.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on Russia and Ukraine to resolve their dispute through dialogue, saying Turkey wants the Black Sea that it also borders to become a “sea of peace.”

Erdoğan said during an address to members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that Turkey, which enjoys close ties with Russia and Ukraine, wanted to maintain cooperation with both nations.

“At a time when the world is in the claws of serious threats, we would be pleased to see Russia and Ukraine standing together, not against each other.”