NATO demands Russia free seized Ukrainian ships

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg demands Russia free Ukrainian ships and sailors held after clashes off Crimea, warning Moscow that “its actions have consequences.”

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 a wider escalation.

Stoltenberg held phone talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko before officials from the two sides held emergency talks at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

“There is no justification for the use of military force against Ukrainian ships and naval personnel, so we call on Russia to release immediately the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized yesterday,” Stoltenberg tells reporters after the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

“And we call for calm and restraint.”

Kiev accused Russia of launching “a new phase of aggression,” after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The Ukrainian military has been put on high alert and the country’s parliament is to vote on a request by Poroshenko to impose martial law for 30 days.


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