On Monday, Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days in parts of the country that are most vulnerable to an attack from Russia after President Petro Poroshenko warned of the severe threat of a land invasion.
Poroshenko said martial law was a requisite to boost Ukraine’s defences after Russia captured three Ukrainian naval ships and took their crew prisoner at the weekend.
US President Donald Trump said he was unhappy with what was happening between Russia and Ukraine and was working with European leaders concerning the situation.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian vessels “a dangerous escalation and a violation of international law” and called for restraint from both countries.
“The United States condemns this assertive Russian action. We call on Russia to hand back to Ukraine its vessels and detained crew members, and to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The State Department revealed that Pompeo had a phone conversation with Poroshenko and echoed strong US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian “aggression”.
The Ukrainian parliament gave a stamp of approval for the introduction of martial law after Poroshenko gave assurance to some sceptical lawmakers that it would not be used to limit civil liberties or cause a delay in the elections scheduled for next year.
It came towards the end of the day when Ukraine and Russia traded accusations about Sunday’s standoff and Kiev’s allies weighed in to condemn Moscow’s behaviour.
Relations still remain raw after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its backing for a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, the crisis risked pushing the two countries into open conflict.
“Russia has been waging a hybrid war against our country for a fifth year. But with an attack on Ukrainian military boats it moved to a new stage of aggression,” Poroshenko said.
Washington’s envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said Russia’s actions were a violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory and sanctions on Russia would stay put.
The European Union, Britain, France, Poland, Denmark, and Canada all condemned what they called Russian aggression. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need for dialogue.
The stand-off in the Azov Sea is more explosive now than it has ever been in the past four years as Ukraine has rebuilt its armed forces, previously in disarray, and has a new generation of commanders who are confident and are certain to prove a point.