KYIV, Ukraine – A half-century-old Ukrainian navy ship that has been circling for several hours this week appears to be a sign of tensions between Russia and Ukraine that it could appear to be causing alarming military tensions.
According to Ukrainian officials, the ship was unarmed and took part in a simple exercise on Thursday on a small but strategic waterway bordering Ukraine in the west and Russia in the east. This, in the first place, seemed to be an example of the obsolescence of the Ukrainian navy, although Ukraine could also have tried to provoke Russia by violating its borders.
In any case, Russia’s security services and state media quickly recovered from the conflict and portrayed it as an impending threat.
Russia’s internal intelligence service said the FSB had arrested the ship in the evening for disobeying orders. This prompted a movement of Kremlin propagandists, who played this movement as the beginning of a war. A military analyst has launched a live broadcast on RT YouTube, a Russian government television station, under the headline “UKRAINIAN PROVOCATION”, offering to launch the ship from the water.
“This is a provocation that everyone is waiting for,” wrote RT correspondent Andrei Medvedev.
In the end, this did not happen because the ship returned to the port without incident.
A wooden ship may not yet be enough to provoke a full Russian attack. But as Moscow gathers about 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, along with tanks, fighter jets and ballistic missiles, people on all sides of the conflict are in a hurry.
The brief fire not only highlights the dangers of the conflict between Ukrainian and Russian-backed separatists, but also the situation following a video conference between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. ‘indicates that it does not change. reduces tension.
Mr Putin’s remarks about Ukraine are becoming increasingly ominous. Ukrainian troops, meanwhile, are stationed along a barrier of 250-mile trenches and fortifications that regularly fire machine guns and artillery during clashes with separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.
In the coming days and weeks, much will depend on diplomatic efforts, experts say.
“I think the situation is tense, but we are not ready for that process,” said Eugene Rumer, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Russia and Eurasia program.
Mr Rumer said Russia could use it to justify a small incident once it decided to invade.
“If Putin realizes that the conversation with Biden is going nowhere, that he can’t achieve what he wants, that it’s hopeless, I can imagine that a drone crash or a projectile hit by someone could be an excuse to hit the trigger.” he said.
Indeed, the decision by the FSB to seize the seemingly harmless ship, along with the angry reaction of Kremlin propagandists, angered Ukrainian and Western officials as to how the Kremlin could use fabricated excuses. ‘they dance. invasion
Ukrainian observers found the timing of the FSB announcement suspicious. This became known when the government announced the details of a telephone conversation between Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and President Biden.
a.da Statement on Twitter, The U.S. embassy in Kiev responded abnormally sharply, saying the Ukrainian ship had done nothing illegal and accused the Russian government of deliberately inciting the conflict.
“Russia’s false allegations are part of a campaign to divert it from its latest aggressive, provocative actions,” the embassy said.
The ship – in the Donbas – Azov Sea, the heart of the separatist region, in the immediate vicinity of Kerch, a narrow corridor near the Russian – occupied Crimea, Ukraine and Russia have clashed several times . In 2018, Russian forces opened fire on several Ukrainian naval vessels and arrested a number of sailors who were accused of straying into territorial waters that the Kremlin considered their own after annexing Crimea.
The FSB said it had refused to obey an order to turn from the direction leading to the Donbas Kerch Strait. “These actions pose a threat to navigation security,” the statement said.
Understand the escalating tensions across Ukraine
According to Ukrainian officials, the ship never came closer than 18 nautical miles to the disputed waterway.
Ukrainian and Western officials say the Russian government, including Mr Putin himself, appears to be considering its own rationale for the invasion. Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken warned that “Russia has intensified disinformation to portray Ukraine as an aggressor to justify pre-planned military action.”
These efforts seem to have continued even after the video conference between Mr. Putin and Mr. Biden.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Mr Putin on Thursday accused the Ukrainian government of carrying out a “genocide” against the people of Donbas. Although civilians in the separatist areas live under the protection of Russian-backed military forces, RT Editor-in-Chief and one of the Kremlin’s top propagandists, Margarita Simonyan, said she immediately stepped up the allegations and hoped Russia would save the population. .
“Mother Russia has repeatedly saved millions of people from various forms of genocide,” he wrote in the Telegram.
“I don’t know if he thought so or not, but I hope he did,” he said of Mr Putin.
The fighting comes amid ongoing violence along the line of control between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists. On Thursday, two Ukrainian servicemen were wounded in attacks on frontline positions. This was reported by the press service of the country’s army.
At the same time, the gathering of Russian troops on the border shows no decline. Russia’s Defense Ministry says tank units in the western military district are training to launch anti-tank missiles similar to the Javelin missiles provided by the United States and currently deployed by Ukrainian forces in the east of the country. The exercises were held at landfills in the Voronezh region, less than 200 kilometers from the Russian-Ukrainian border.
Russia’s chief of staff, Valery V. Gerasimov, warned military attaches on Thursday that escalating tensions in the region could force Russia to respond. In his statement, he highlighted Russia’s opposition to Javelin aircraft, which Ukrainian forces have not yet used on the battlefield, and to Turkish-made Bayraktar drones used to attack separatist positions.
“Any provocation of the Ukrainian government aimed at resolving the Donbas problem by force will be suppressed,” he said.