Ukraine Has Banned All Russian Men of Military-Service Age

Metropolitan Pavel  Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Friday their response gained an edge, when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted that Russians aged 16 to 60 would be barred from entering Ukraine, the most concrete measure taken yet by Kiev during the 30 days of the martial law they have declared.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she plans to press Russian President Vladimir Putin at this weekend's G20 summit in Argentina to urge the release of the ships and crews, but added that, "we can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts".

Relations collapsed following Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and the outbreak of a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people.

Moscow insists Ukraine were illegally entering the waters - something Kiev strongly refutes, saying prior notice was given. They threw flares at the Russian embassy in the Ukrainian capital and burned tires in front of the consulate general in Lvov.

Orthodox communities will now have to convene at a date announced by Bartholomew I to formally form a new church, Poroshenko said Thursday. Ukrainian authorities have sought to portray Russian Orthodox clerics in Ukraine as supporting separatists.

Overall, 35 vessels have been prevented from carrying out normal operations and only vessels moving towards Russian ports on the Azov Sea are permitted entry, he said on Facebook. British Prime Minister Theresa May has rebuked Putin's aggression against Ukraine, calling on Russian Federation to release the ships and sailors.

Ukraine's foreign ministry sent Moscow a diplomatic note in protest at the "illegal" detentions.

Both countries have the right to patrol the waters and it is the site of a new Russian bridge, connecting Russia to Crimea. That encounter saw Russian warships fire on and seize three Ukrainian navy vessels, wounding several of their crew.

Ukraine now says that at least some of the detained sailors that have faced magistrates in Crimea are being moved to Moscow, which is not a good sign.

But was Putin really the provocateur in Sunday's naval clash outside Kerch Strait, the Black Sea gateway to the Sea of Azov?

Putin has claimed that the naval confrontation was a ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart's popularity ahead of an election in March. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko Deputy Head of Security Service of Ukraine, Oleh Frolov demonstrates an image showing Ukrainian armoured artillery vessel Berdyansk damaged by Russian shelling during a news conference on the Black Sea incident, which took place off Russian-annexed Crimea on November 25, in Kiev, Ukraine November 29, 2018.

Asked about the Turkish offer, Peskov responded that "Moscow is grateful to all those willing to help de-escalate the tensions provoked by the Ukrainian side, but doesn't see any need for mediation efforts".

"Russian citizens will go through an additional interview at the border, their previous visits to Ukraine will be scrutinised", he told Al Jazeera. "As for the citizens of Ukraine, there are no restrictions", Tsigikal said.

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

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Mr Poroshenko's request for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to send warships into the Sea of Azov is "clearly aimed at provoking further tensions", adding that it was driven by the Ukrainian leader's "electoral and domestic policy motives".

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