Putin defends seizure of ships

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Russian President Vladimir Putin.

MOSCOW, Russia – President Vladimir Putin insisted Wednesday that Russian forces were in the right to seize three Ukrainian ships last weekend, but President Donald Trump expressed “deep concern” at Moscow’s actions against a US ally.

In his first extensive remarks since the confrontation at sea on Sunday, Putin said it had been orchestrated by Kiev as a “provocation”.

He said the Ukrainian ships had entered Russian territorial waters and refused to respond to requests to stop from Russian patrol boats.

“What were they (Russian forces) supposed to do?” Putin said when asked about the incident at an international investment forum in Moscow.

“They were fulfilling their military duty. They were fulfilling their lawful functions in protecting Russia’s borders. They would do the same in your country.”

Moscow and Kiev have traded angry accusations since Russian navy vessels fired on, boarded and captured the three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea.

After warning of the threat of “full-scale war”, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday signed an act imposing martial law for 30 days in regions bordering Russia, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Western governments have rallied behind Kiev, accusing Russia of illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov, used by both countries, and of using force without justification.

Trump on Tuesday threatened to cancel planned talks with Putin at this week’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires over the incident.

The White House on Wednesday said Trump and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Ukraine-Russia incident by telephone and “the two leaders expressed deep concern about the incident in the Kerch Strait and the continued detainment of Ukraine’s vessels and crew members”.

p: wjg

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