Mixed Messages: U.S Urges Ukraine and Russia Leaders to Resolve Kerch Strait Issues Directly, while NATO Lends ‘Unconditional Support’

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WASHINGTON DC, The United States – The United States urged Russia and Ukraine leaders to work urgently to resolve the current disagreement between the two countries, triggered by an invasion of Ukrainian ships into Russian territorial waters last weekend.

“We call on both parties to exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations and commitments. We urge Presidents Poroshenko and Putin to engage directly to resolve this situation. In that regard, we reiterate our support for the Normandy Four format,” Pompeo said in a press statement on November 26.

However, Ukrainian media has been carrying the line that NATO issued a statement giving unconditional support to Ukraine, amidst in the deteriorating situation in the Azov Sea and Russian actions in the Kerch Strait. The NATO comments come from spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a commentary for Evropeyska Pravda.

Lungescu here stressed that NATO is closely monitoring developments in the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. “We are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities. We call for restraint and de-escalation.”

“NATO fully supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters. We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law,” the Alliance press secretary stated.

She recalled that at the Brussels Summit in July, NATO leaders expressed their support for Ukraine and made clear that Russia’s ongoing militarization of the Crimea, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea poses further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region.

The European Union called for Russia to restore freedom of movement and not to aggravate the situation in the Azov Sea. According to the recent information, six Ukrainian servicemen were injured as the result of what Ukrainian media outlet UAWire has termed ‘the Russians’ aggression in the Black Sea’. This sentiment has been expressed across the Atlantic Council (media arm of NATO), NED (National Endowment for Democracy), Radio Liberty/Radio-Free Europe, US-AID, Plan B, and Gladio networks.

The public relations center of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation stated that three Ukrainian Navy ships coming from the port of Berdyansk in the Azov Sea and heading for the Kerch Strait reversed course.

Earlier, the press-center of the Ukrainian Naval Forces Command stated that the Berdyansk and Nikopol, small, armored artillery boats, were hit by Russian fire and lost their way and subsequently seized by Russia.

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What we are seeing is a case of two distinct messages from the U.S side, which are tailored to various audiences. That part of the international community which does not have a vested interest in the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine row, as well as those perhaps partial to Russia, will have received an ‘even and fair’ message from Washington. In this message, the U.S urges ‘both sides to exercise restraint’, and to ‘solve the issue independently’.

Meanwhile,  to the Atlantic Council, NED, Radio Liberty audiences, NATO gives unconditional support.

Also this evening, Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the delicate incident last Sunday when Ukrainian navy vessels were detained by Russian forces after violating Russian borders in the Kerch Strait.

“The dangerous incident that occurred on November 25 in the Black Sea area and Azov was discussed, and Vladimir Putin made an assessment of Ukraine’s provocative actions and the grave violation of international law by its warships, which deliberately ignored the rules of innocent passage through the territorial sea of ​​the Russian Federation,” the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

In the afternoon of Monday, the Supreme Rada (Ukrainian parliament) approved the 30-day martial law that covers different parts of the country. Earlier today, the Ukrainian army was put on alert for combat. The decision was made following the incident with three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait.

On November 25, three ships of the Ukrainian Navy, Berdyansk, Nikopol and Yany Kapu, in violation of Articles 19 and 21 of the UN Convention on Maritime Law, crossed the Russian border. The ships carried out dangerous maneuvers for several hours without reacting to the demands of the Russian vessels that accompanied the Ukrainian ships.

A decision was made to use weapons. The Ukrainian ships were detained. During the incident, three Ukrainian military personnel were slightly injured. They have received medical care and are not at risk of life. Russia has opened a criminal case for breaching the border.

Russia and Ukraine have been in a state of tension since the Euromaiden in 2014, which effectively brought war to Donbass and saw Crimea finally reunite with Russia.

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