Standoff with Russia: Ukraine President asks NATO to send ships to Sea of Azov

Berlin: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked NATO members, including Germany, on Thursday to send naval vessels to the Sea of Azov to back his country in the standoff with Russia. “Germany is one of our closest allies, and we hope states within NATO are now ready to relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov to assist Ukra­ine and provide security,” he told Germany’s Bild daily.

President Vladimir Putin insisted on Wednesday Russian forces were right to seize three Ukrainian ships last weekend. But Poroshenko charged Putin “wants nothing less than to occupy the sea. The only language he understands is the unity of the Western world.

“We cannot accept this aggressive policy of Russia. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov. Germany, too, has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we do not stop him?” he added on the day Ukraine’s PM Volodymyr Groysman was to visit Berlin.

Russia fired on and then seized three Ukrainian ships on Sunday, accusing them of illegally entering its waters in the Sea of Azov, in a dramatic spike in tensions that raises fears of an escalation. Kiev accused Russia, whi­ch annexed Crimea from Ukra­ine in 2014, of launching “a new phase of aggression”. NATO chief Jens Stolten­b­erg on Monday asked Russia to free the Ukrainian ships and sailors, warning Mos­cow “its actions have consequences”.

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