Ukraine’s president says the country is under threat of a full-fledged war with Russia. His comments come just two days after Russia seized three Ukrainian ships. Moscow released videos of Ukrainian sailors “admitting” to provocations. But officials in Kiev – and many in the West – believe the confessions were forced. CGTN’s Dan Ashby has more from Moscow.
The tired face of a Ukrainian sailor, captured by Russia off Crimea, and filmed admitting to provocations. “We ignored warnings from Russia, and went into their territory,” he said.
Russia said the confessions prove that Ukraine tried to illegally sail into its shores and explains why Russian ships rammed, shot at and captured the vessels.
Now, Moscow wants the West to restrain Kiev.
“If the Ukrainian side, like its partners in Europe, is interested in avoiding such situations in the future, it is obviously necessary to send a signal to Kiev not to allow such provocations,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued.
But there is little chance of that.
Ukraine, the EU and the U.S. all said Russia is the aggressor, and that the sailors’ so-called ‘confession’ was forced.
They want de-escalation, fast.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “I told Sergei Lavrov that a gesture is expected from Russia, that the prisoners and the boats being held must be freed as soon as possible, but I will also call my Ukrainian counterpart to encourage him to seek a de-escalation in this region.”
But it has been a spark to a tinder-keg. Ukraine’s President has decreed martial law, and Estonia wants more sanctions against Russia.
In Moscow, they hope it won’t happen.
“They might target a number of Russian individuals, they might target institutions, but I don’t expect too much to happen, if the situation stays as it stays right now,” explained Andrew Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council.
But all the while, Moscow continues to keep the sailors in jail.
Years of tension between Moscow and Kiev make this confrontation especially volatile. There is no sign yet of further military escalation, but it is reminder of how easily a situation can deteriorate.