Angela Merkel's ally at Christian Democratic Union Norbert Roetgen made a statement on Tuesday, suggesting that the EU should consider toughening sanctions against Russia over the latest military escalation in the Black sea strait of Kerch.
It was reported earlier on Monday that Russian military vessels blocked Ukrainian warships from passing the Russia-controlled Kerch Strait on the way to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol on the sea of Azov. Russia’s FSB security service released video footage on Tuesday of some of the captured Ukrainian sailors admitting that their actions had been deliberately provocative and that they had ignored Russian orders to stop.
At least one of them appeared to be reading from a script. Ukrainian politicians said the sailors had been coerced, rendering their confessions meaningless.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday accused Ukraine of deliberately organizing what it called a provocation in the Black Sea by sending its ships through the strait with no advance warning and ordering them to ignore Russian orders to stop.
With relations still raw after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its backing for a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, the incident risks pushing the two countries towards a wider conflict.
The U.S. State Department, the European Union, Britain, France, Poland, Denmark, and Canada have all condemned what they called Russian aggression after it opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian navy ships near Russian-annexed Crimea on Sunday. Moscow accuses the Ukrainian vessels of intruding into its territorial waters, which Kiev denies.
Merkel, an important voice in any future EU decision to impose more sanctions on Russia, on Monday spoke by phone to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and said the situation needed to be de-escalated.
One option for the EU would be to add new companies or individuals to the bloc’s existing sanctions.