UKRAINE says Russia has opened fire on its ships and captured three vessels in the latest Crimea flare-up.
Two of its gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian special forces after a chase, it said, leaving Ukrainian crew members injured and prompting the president to call an emergency summit of his war cabinet.
A Russian coastguard vessel, named the Don, rammed one of its tugboats in “openly aggressive actions”, the Ukrainian Navy said.
They claimed two sailors were wounded after one of their small artillery boats was hit in the strikes.
Earlier today Russia stopped three Ukrainian navy vessels from entering the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait by placing a huge cargo ship beneath a Russian-controlled bridge.
They said the vessels illegally entered the area to deliberately provoke conflict.
The three Ukrainian ships were allegedly heading for the port of Mariupol.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has now called an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa said: “Today’s dangerous events in the Azov Sea testify that a new front of [Russian] aggression is open.
“Ukraine [is] calling now for emergency meeting of United Nations Security Council.”
Ukraine has condemned Russia’s actions as “openly aggressive”.
Tensions have risen in the seas off the Crimean peninsula – annexed by Russia in 2014 – in recent months.
Russia’s use of a cargo ship effectively blocks all traffic into the strait, the only passage into the Sea of Azov.
Since 2003 countries have had the right to use the strait, but since the annexation Moscow has controlled the land on both sides.
Marine traffic tracker website VesselFinder.com showed several dozen ships anchored near the strait, waiting for the dispute to be resolved.
In a statement, the Ukrainian navy said the Berdyansk and the Nikopol gunboats were hit and disabled as they tried to leave the area.
It said the tug was forced to stop.
Russia earlier scrambled two fighter jets and two helicopters to monitor the Ukrainian vessels.
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In a statement, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Russia had “crossed the line”.
“Russia’s provocative actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov have crossed the line and become aggressive,” the statement said.
“Russian ships have violated our freedom of maritime navigation and unlawfully used force against Ukrainian naval ships.”
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