Ukraine claims Russian Federation 'rammed our tugboat' off Crimea

Russia blocks Kerch Strait amid confrontation with Ukraine

Russia blocks Kerch Strait amid confrontation with Ukraine

Ukraine has increased the number of navy ships and border guard patrols in the Sea of Azov, which is reached via the Kerch strait between Crimea and Russian Federation. But tensions around the sea have escalated since Russian Federation annexed Ukraine's nearby Crimea in 2014.

The Ukrainian navy said a Russian border guard vessel had rammed the tug boat, damaging it in an incident it said showed Russia was behaving aggressively and illegally.

Kyiv said Moscow had violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the contract between Kiev and Moscow on the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Russia's coast guard ships on November 25 carried out attacks on the ships of the Ukrainian Navy that were engaged in planned relocation from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol of the Sea of Azov, the Ukrainian Navy said.

A 2003 treaty between Russian Federation and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.

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A Rossiya 24 correspondent reporting from the area said Russia's tactic had completely blocked the bridge, and that Russian military helicopters were circling overhead. Russian state TV said Russian combat helicopters had also been deployed to the area. It said Ukraine's ships were carrying out "provocative actions" and "their aim is clear - to create a conflict situation in this region".

A Russian border guard ship, the Don, "rammed into our tugboat", Ukraine's navy said in a statement, adding that this caused damage to its engine, outer shell, and guardrail.

It said its vessels had every right to be where they were and that the ships had been en route from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol, a journey that requires them to go through the Kerch Strait.

Both countries accused each other of breaking global law after Russian border guards tried and failed to stop two Ukrainian armoured artillery vessels circumnavigating Crimea en route to a Ukrainian port.

Russian Federation said the Ukrainian ships - two warships named as the Berdyansk and the Nikopol, and the tug - were trying "to create a conflict situation in this region".

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