Ukraine plans another naval foray into Sea of Azov

Almost Heaven

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MOSCOW (AP) — Ukraine plans to again send its warships into the Sea of Azov, a top Ukrainian official said, a move that could set the stage for another clash with Russia.

Oleksandr Turchynov, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said in an interview with the BBC published Wednesday that another such mission is necessary to prevent Russia from claiming control over the body of water. Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denounced his remarks as a “provocation.”

On Nov. 25, the Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 seamen when they tried to sail from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov. The U.S. and its NATO allies have condemned what they described as unjustified use of force by Russia, and urged Moscow to release the boats and their crews.

Ukraine said its boats operated in line with international rules, while Russia charged that the Ukrainian vessels had failed to obtain permission to pass.

The standoff has further fueled the tug-of-war between the two neighbors over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.