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"We are dismayed at this use of force by Russia which, against the backdrop of increasing militarization in the area, is unacceptable", the 28 EU Member States said in a public statement
"We are dismayed at this use of force by Russia which, against the backdrop of increasing militarization in the area, is unacceptable", the 28 EU Member States said in a public statement presented by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, at the end of the third day of talks on the escalation of military violence between Kiev and Moscow. The Western powers have condemned Russia's actions, calling for the release of the three vessels captured in the Kerch strait and of the 24 Ukrainian servicemen, at present under a two-month pre-trial arrest on charges of illegal border crossing. Moscow has admitted it used part of its equipment to force the Ukrainian ships to a halt, while Kiev claims it had previously warned Russia that its ships would transit the area en route to Mariupol port on the Sea of Azov.
The president of the Conflict Prevention Center, Iulian Chifu, spoke about the situation in a show on Radio Romania:
"The Russian Federation has now opened its third battlefront with Ukraine. What's more serious is the fact that this new aggression occurred on its territory. We're not talking here about the annexation of Crimea by means of little green men, its military aggression in Eastern Ukraine, where they acted by means of volunteers, stray military, as Mr. Lavrov called them. Russia now considers Crimea to be its territory and is trying to assert this by annexing the Sea of Azov. It has built that bridge, which is also illegal, and now it acts as if those waters are Russian property, denying access and demanding permission to anyone who wants to pass. It's about three military Ukrainian vessels, coming from an Ukrainian port and heading for another Ukrainian port, which was denied access through the Sea of Azov. The situation escalated into clashes and then fire shots, claiming victims."
The incident occurred near the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014 and the tension grew after 2015, when rebels supported by Moscow rose against the Kiev government in the eastern region of Donbas, starting a war that killed dozens of people. A singular approach to the Kerch case is incorrect, no mater whom we may accuse, according to university professor Dan Dungaciu, the director of the Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations of the Romanian Academy:
"This episode is just one element in a saga that started back in 2014, when the Russian Federation did what it did: it annexed Crimea, entered the eastern part of Ukraine and is now indirectly controlling two regions there. What is Kerch in fact? Before Crimea's annexation, it was just a strait between Ukraine, Crimea, which was par of Ukraine, and the Russian Federation. On the Russian side, there was a command unit checking all crossings through the strait. Now we are in the situation in which Crimea belongs to Russia too, de facto, but not de jure, and on the right shore there is also Russia. Therefore, Russia is controlling all entrances. Adding to that was the famous bridge that the Russians built quite fast."
It is the bridge that links Crimea to Russia, a strategic bridge as Professor Dan Dungaciu said:
"When they built that bridge, they built it at a height of 30 meters. There are many ships taller than 30 meters, which can no longer pass underneath the bridge and are stuck in the Sea of Azov, which, at present, also due to this bridge built by the Russian Federation, is more of a Russian sea. In fact, the decisive moment was 2014. They should have been criticised then and the people in the region understood very well that unless you are part of NATO or the EU there is nobody there to defend you, because being part of the UN is not enough. So what has happened to Ukraine is also due to the inability of its political elites, of their lack of projects, as for 20 years they have believed they can play both ends - the East and the West. Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova are prisoners of their own false political vision, based on a Russian saying according to which taking advantage of both sides is the smart thing to do. This is how these two countries have made politics so far and have not clearly opted for NATO or the EU. "
Given the recent developments, the EU has urged both sides to keep calm and asked Moscow to reinstate free circulation in the Kerch strait. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed that Russia is not a member of NATO, whose principle is the collective defense of its members, but has pointed out that the Alliance supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian threats. Meanwhile in Kiev, the Ukrainian Parliament instated the martial law for an unlimited period of time.
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