By Stefan J. Bos
Russia's security service has released controversial statements by three captured Ukrainians after Russian ships fired on also, seized three Ukrainian boats off the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea.
One of the men, Volodymyr Lisovyi, said he was aware of the "provocative nature" of the Ukrainian action. Ukraine's navy commander said the men had been forced to lie under duress.
At the same time, a court in Crimea ordered the first of 24 Ukrainians capture on Sunday to remain in detention for 60 days. Western nations have condemned Russia's use of force, four years after it seized Ukraine's southern Crimean peninsula.
The Secretary-General of the NATO military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, urges Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors. "There is no justification for the use of military force against Ukrainian ships and naval personnel," he said. "So we call on Russia to release immediately the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized...And we call for calm and restraint," he added.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, whose country is a NATO member, says Poland would support international initiatives to enhance sanctions on Russia following its seizure of three Ukrainian navy ships.
Also, his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid said the Russian attack on Ukrainian military vessels constitutes “war in Europe.”
However, Russia's deputy ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy blames Ukraine. “What Kiev has been doing, in coordination with the U.S. and others, to promote a conflict line against Russia, is fraught with very dangerous consequences," he said. "We are going to curb any infringement of Russian sovereignty and territorial integrity including the Sea of Azov and that area. We do hope that that is clear to everyone.”
In response, Ukraine's parliament has adopted a motion by the president to impose martial law for 30 days after Sunday’s clash between the two rivals in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
Despite the turmoil, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he doesn't see "a need for any mediators.”
He spoke after Germany’s foreign minister suggested that Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine could work together to resolve the tensions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the German chancellor that he is “seriously concerned” about the weekend’s escalation near Crimea and developments in Ukraine.
Europe's security organization OSCE is closely monitoring the situation. It said in a statement that Russia and Ukraine must refrain from what it called “any further provocations” and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions after the two countries’ standoff near Crimea.