The Latest: Soccer match moved to Kiev amid martial law
MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on tensions between Russia and Ukraine (all times local):
UEFA has moved Thursday’s Europa League soccer game in Ukraine between Arsenal and FC Vorskla to the capital city of Kiev after parliament voted to impose martial law in parts of the country.
Imposing martial law is Ukraine’s response after Russian border guards fired on and seized three Ukrainian ships Sunday, capturing 24 men. Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for the dispute off the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Neither Poltava, where the game was originally to be played, nor Kiev will come under martial law.
UEFA says the game was moved “due to security concerns,” adding that it “will continue to monitor and assess the security situation in Ukraine in the coming days before making any decision on potentially relocating other matches.”
That could include Shakhtar Donetsk’s Champions League game against Lyon on Dec. 12. That’s scheduled to be played in the city of Kharkiv, which is in a martial law zone.
Polish President Andrzej Duda says his country would support international initiatives to enhance sanctions on Russia following its seizure of three Ukrainian navy ships.
Duda, who arrived on an official visit to Bulgaria on Tuesday, said he had no doubt Russia was the aggressor in Ukraine and that it “violated international law and the Russia-Ukraine agreements concerning navigation on the Sea of Azov.”
“It is something that can’t be accepted and Poland completely disagrees with such actions,” Duda said. He called for a de-escalation of the conflict and the release of the Ukrainian vessels and their crews.
“If there are such international initiatives, like further sanctions (on Russia), Poland will support them, as we are ready to take every action to end this conflict,” Duda told the media after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart, Rumen Radev.
A Crimean court has ordered one of the Ukrainian seamen captured by Russia at the weekend held in custody for the next two months.
The seamen and their vessels were captured by Russian border guards late on Sunday as they were about to make their way through the Kerch Strait near Crimea. Russia said it was a violation of its borders; Ukraine described it as a routine passage.
Russian news agencies reporting from a Crimean court on Tuesday quoted an investigator as saying that the man faces charges of violating the border, which carry up to six years in prison. The Ukrainian was ordered held until Jan. 26.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid says a Russian attack on Ukrainian military vessels constitutes “war in Europe.”
Kaljulaid says this “will not, shall not and cannot ever again be accepted as business as usual.”
She called Tuesday on the international community “to condemn the Russian aggression clearly, collectively and immediately and demand a stop to the aggression.”
“Silent acknowledgement means de facto recognition of the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula,” Kaljulaid said, adding Ukraine has “been engaged in war since 2014.”
After Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine that year, Estonia, like its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, fear that they and other former Soviet republics could be next.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is rejecting foreign mediation in Russia’s standoff with Ukraine over Ukrainian ships seized near Crimea.
Lavrov said in Paris on Tuesday “I don’t see a need for any kind of mediators.” He spoke after Germany’s foreign minister suggested that Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine could work together to resolve the tensions.
Lavrov said that to ensure such incidents don’t happen again, Ukraine’s Western backers should send a “strong signal” to Kiev to stop any “provocations.”
Lavrov reiterated Russia’s stance that Ukraine “intentionally provoked” Russian authorities by entering maritime space near Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and detained the crew Sunday in the Kerch Strait. Ukraine says Russia had no right to stop the ships.
Lavrov spoke after meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who appeared to soften his criticism of Russia’s seizure.
Ukraine’s foreign minister says his country has asked the Red Cross to arrange a visit to seamen taken prisoner by Russia.
Russian border guards on Sunday fired on three Ukrainian navy vessels in the Black Sea near the Russia-occupied Crimea. The vessels and the crews were captured.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he has spoken with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross about visiting the Ukrainian prisoners and he’s waiting for a Russian response on whether it will be possible.
“It’s not a political issue here, because we can have an argument about the legal status, but not it’s about simply concentrating on protecting them and helping them,” Klimkin told the AP.
Russian state television earlier on Tuesday showed interviews with three crewmembers, all of them confirming that they have violated the Russian border. It was not immediately clear if they had spoken under duress.
When asked about the interviews, Klimkin said “even to put prisoners of war on television is already a crime.”
Belarusian border guards say more than 50 Russians have been denied entry to Ukraine in the past two days for unspecified reasons.
Ukraine in 2015 banned all direct flights to and from Russia in the wake of the separatist conflict in the east, making Belarus a convenient layover for travelers.
Belarusian border guards spokesman Anton Bychkovsky told The Associated Press on Tuesday that 52 people who traveled on the Belarusian national airline have been denied entrance to Ukraine upon arrival since Monday and had to be put on the plane back.
Ukraine increased checks at the border following the annexation of Crimea and has started the routine practice of denying entry to passengers at Kiev airports but the number quoted by Belarusian authorities appears to be the highest in years.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Russia and Ukraine to resolve their dispute through dialogue, saying Turkey wants the Black Sea that it also borders to become a “sea of peace.”
Erdogan made the comments Tuesday during an address to members of his ruling party, days after a standoff near Crimea in which Russian border guards opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels and eventually seized them and their crews.
Erdogan said Turkey, which enjoys close ties with Russia and Ukraine, wanted to maintain cooperation with both nations.
The Turkish leader said: “At a time when the world is in the claws of serious threats, we would be pleased to see Russia and Ukraine standing together, not against each other.”
Ukraine’s state security service says that its intelligence officers were among the crew on Ukrainian naval ships seized by Russia in a standoff near Crimea.
The SBU agency said in a statement Tuesday that the officers were fulfilling counterintelligence operations for the Ukrainian navy, in response to “psychological and physical pressure” by Russian spy services. It didn’t elaborate, but demanded that Russia stop such activity.
Russia’s FSB intelligence agency said late Monday that that there were SBU officers on board the Ukrainian ships, calling that proof of a “provocation” staged by Ukraine.
Both countries traded blame after Russian border guards on Sunday opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels and eventually seized them and their crews. The incident put the two countries on war footing and raised international concern.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is urging Russia and Ukraine to refrain from “any further provocations” and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions after the two countries’ standoff near Crimea.
The Vienna-based OSCE, which has a monitoring mission in Ukraine, urged both sides in a statement Tuesday to refrain from using force and settle any disputes by peaceful means.
Russian border guards on Sunday opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels and eventually seized them and their crews.
OSCE secretary general Thomas Greminger said in a statement Tuesday that “immediate de-escalation is both urgent and essential.” He urged Moscow and Kiev “to exercise restraint, step back from any further provocations and immediately engage in dialogue to reduce the risk of further tensions in the region.”
The Kremlin has warned that martial law that is to go into effect in parts of Ukraine on Wednesday might lead to an escalation in the rebel-held east.
Ukraine late on Monday adopted a bill that introduces martial law in several regions, including those bordering the separatist-held areas.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Tuesday that martial law might trigger a flare-up in hostilities in the east.
Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 but the hostilities have largely subsided since a truce was signed in 2015.
Germany’s foreign minister is suggesting that Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine could work together to resolve tensions between Moscow and Kiev following the weekend’s incident near Russian-annexed Crimea.
Germany and France brokered a 2015 accord to end violence in eastern Ukraine, most of whose provisions remain unfulfilled. The two European powers have met at various levels with Russia and Ukraine over recent years in the so-called Normandy Format. Foreign ministry political directors from the four countries held a previously scheduled meeting Monday.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Tuesday that Berlin has “called on Russia and Ukraine to show the greatest possible restraint, and offered to work on a solution in the Normandy Format.”
He added that “we must do everything for de-escalation, to prevent this crisis turning into an even more serious crisis for security in Europe.”
Russia’s main intelligence agency has released a video of three crewmembers of the Ukrainian vessels that were seized on Sunday.
The FSB put out the video on Tuesday, showing interviews with three seamen, all of whom confirmed that they violated the Russian border. It was not immediately possible to ascertain if the men were talking under duress. One of them was clearly reading from a teleprompter.
Russian border guards on Sunday fired at three Ukrainian navy vessels as they were trying to make their way through the Kerch Strait near Russian-occupied Crimea. The Russians then seized the ships and their crews.
The escalation over the weekend was the first overt military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.
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.
Russian border guards on Sunday opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels and eventually seized them and their crews. Ukraine on Monday announced martial law in parts of the country, citing a “growing threat” from Russia.
The Kremlin said in the early hours Tuesday that Putin expressed his concern over the escalation and the martial law in Ukraine in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Putin told Merkel he lays all the blame for the confrontation on Ukraine and said Ukraine provoked it for political reasons.
Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel in the conversation with Putin stressed the need for de-escalation and dialogue.