Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Trump says might cancel Putin meet

‘UNDER THREAT’:Ukraine called on its Western allies to impose further sanctions on Moscow after Russia seized three of its naval vessels and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors

AFP, KIEV

US President Donald Trump has said he might cancel a long-awaited summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin after a confrontation at sea between Russia and Ukraine led Kiev to warn of the threat of “full-scale war.”

Trump is scheduled to meet Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of this week, but said it would depend on the results of a report being prepared by his national security advisers about Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships.

“Maybe I won’t have the meeting. Maybe I won’t even have the meeting,” he told the Washington Post on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko earlier said that the standoff could herald more drastic developments as tensions escalate between the ex-Soviet neighbors.

“I don’t want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia,” Poroshenko said.

The number of Russian units deployed along the Ukrainian border has “grown dramatically,” while the number of Russian tanks has tripled, Poroshenko said, citing intelligence reports, but giving no precise timescale for the buildup.

He spoke after Russian forces seized three of Kiev’s ships off the coast of Crimea on Sunday and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors.

On Tuesday, a court in Simferopol, the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea, ordered 12 of the sailors to be held in pretrial detention for two months.

Three hospitalized sailors were also formally detained for two months. The rest were to appear in court yesterday.

The move stoked already high tensions between Moscow and Kiev, as Russia continues to accuse the sailors of crossing illegally into Russian waters and of ignoring warnings from its border guards.

Kiev has demanded the release of the sailors and urged Western allies to impose further sanctions on Moscow.

The US Department of State has termed Russia’s actions “a dangerous escalation” and said Washington wants to see “our European allies doing more to assist Ukraine.”

The incident was the first major confrontation at sea in the conflict pitting Ukraine against Moscow and Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.

Putin on Tuesday warned Ukraine against any “reckless acts” after Kiev declared martial law in response to Moscow’s seizure of the vessels.

The Ukrainian parliament on Monday voted in favor of Poroshenko’s request for the introduction of martial law in border areas for 30 days. This gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilize citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas.

Moscow has accused Kiev of planning Sunday’s confrontation as a provocation aimed at drumming up support for Poroshenko ahead of elections next year and convincing Western governments to impose further sanctions on Russia.

Putin said Kiev’s actions were “clearly taken in view of the election campaign in Ukraine.”

Russian state television has aired footage of some of the captured sailors being questioned by Moscow’s security services.

One of them is heard saying “the actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocatory character” — parroting the version of events put forward by Russian authorities.

Ukrainian Navy Commander Igor Voronchenko said the sailors were pressured into giving false evidence.

“I know these sailors, they were always professional. What they are saying now is not true,” he told Ukrainian media.

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