Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak ordered to prepare the required documentation for the construction of a new naval base in the Sea of Azov. “I have instructed the Naval Commander to send estimates for the construction of a naval base in the Sea of Azov. We definitely should strengthen our presence there. We should respond to the threats in the Sea of Azov,” the Defense Minister said on the Ukrainian TV.
At the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, Ukraine proposed to extend the OSCE Mission and to deploy an observation post in Kerch.
Tensions in the region have escalated since November 25 when Russian Special Forces attacked and seized two Ukrainian Navy warships and a tugboat heading from Odessa to Mariupol. Several sailors were injured and Russia illegally detained all 24 Ukrainians.
Russia does not consider the detainees prisoners of war else they would be in violation of international law. The Russian-controlled courts of Simferopol and Kerch arrested the sailors on charges of “alleged illegal border crossing”.
Ukraine refuses to acknowledge the legality of the seizure of ships and “trials” of sailors. Ukrainian officials stress the ships sailed through the Kerch Strait in accordance with international law. Western partners support Ukraine’s position.
The very next evening after the escalation in the Azov Sea, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada voted for the imposition of martial law for 30 days in ten border regions and also in the waters of the Azov Sea. The bill on the imposition of martial law entered into force on November 28. Border guards, police, servicemen and security forces have been put in combat mode.