MOSCOW/KERCH: Several senior European politicians on Tuesday raised the possibility of new sanctions against Russia to punish it for capturing three Ukrainian vessels at sea, an incident the West fears could ignite a wider conflict.
A Russian minister said further sanctions would solve nothing and that the incident should not be used to derail the Minsk accord, which aims to end fighting in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels.
Russian assets have come under pressure on financial markets amid concerns that possible new sanctions could hurt the economy, though the rouble on Tuesday clawed back some earlier losses as investors bet any sanctions would not be swift.
Russia opened fire on the Ukrainian boats and then seized them and their crews on Sunday near Crimea – which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow and Kiev have tried to pin the blame on each other for the incident.
President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone on Monday that Moscow was ready to provide more details to bolster its version of events. Moscow says Kiev deliberately provoked it in order to trigger a crisis.
Merkel, who also spoke on Monday with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, called for de-escalation and dialogue.
The United States urged European nations on Tuesday to do more to assist Ukraine in its standoff with Russia.
US President Donald Trump told the Washington Post in an interview that he might cancel his scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina this week over the maritime clash, adding, “I don’t like that aggression.”
Ukraine has introduced martial law for 30 days in parts of the country it deems most vulnerable to an attack from Russia. It has said its ships did nothing wrong and that it wants the West to impose new sanctions on Moscow.
Some of the 24 Ukrainian sailors held by Russia for straying into Russian waters appeared on Russian state TV on Tuesday admitting to being part of a pre-planned provocation. Kiev denounced what it described as forced confessions.