Ukraine, Russia sea standoff

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Clearing leaves up from green areas near Mariupol's under-used railway tracks is a group of Ukrainian women, in orange overalls, who will probably add the ban on Russians to the list of things they blame their president for.

In 2014, after the pro-Russian regime in Kiev was ousted in a coup, and a pro-NATO regime installed with USA backing, Putin detached and annexed Crimea, for centuries the homeport of Russia's Black Sea fleet. Ukrainian authorities sought to portray the Russian Orthodox clerics in Ukraine as supporting separatists.

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, tweeted that the latest measure was created to prevent Russia from forming units of "private" armies, "which in reality are representatives of the armed forces of the Russian Federation", on Ukrainian soil.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have escalated after the weekend incident in which the Russian coast guard fired on and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels and their crews near the Kerch Strait.

Predictably, our interventionists decried Russian "aggression" and demanded we back up our Ukrainian "ally" and send military aid.

The Senate also accuses Moscow of "destabilizing for the entire region" and inviting further escalations.

Late on Thursday the Ukrainian Orthodox church, which has been under the authority of the Russian Orthodox church for centuries, was granted independence, in a blow to Moscow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she plans to press Russian President Vladimir Putin at this weekend's G-20 summit in Argentina about his country's seizure of three Ukrainian ships and their crews. No matter what the status of the 2003 agreement or the force of Russia's asserted sovereignty over the Kerch Strait, under the UNCLOS, Ukraine has the right of "transit passage" including its warships, in peace and war.

Ukraine long has imposed entry restrictions on Russian men and the latest move will further tighten them, hurting bilateral trade and other exchanges across the almost 2,300-kilometre (1,425-mile) border.

President Poroshenko said the worldwide community must not accept Russia's aggressive policy, in an interview with German newspaper Bild.

Russian Foreign Ministry officially claims a possibility to occupy the Ukrainian regions where Russia's diplomatic institutions are located, as the Spokesperson of the establishment Mariya Zakharova said at the briefing, Unian reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Poroshenko's request is "clearly aimed at provoking further tensions" and driven by the Ukrainian leader's "electoral and domestic policy motives". Or, if the next flare-up over control of the waterways between Russian Federation and Ukraine occurs at the same time conflict in eastern Ukraine has heated up, the spark for large-scale conflict will be instant.

For Russia will not, whether out of security concerns or ambition, stop tightening the noose the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait represent for Ukraine.

Russian Federation has held 24 Ukrainian sailors since it seized the ships.

Erdogan made the comments early Thursday, hours after he held separate telephone conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Yet, both sides could gain from this. Twenty-four Ukrainian service members were apprehended and the ships impounded (Interfax, November 27; Fakty.ua, November 29).

Germany says a blockade of access to the Sea of Azov is "unacceptable". The vessels were trying to pass through the Kerch Strait on their way to the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has two major ports.

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