NATO on Thursday expressed concern over the “heightened tensions” between Russia and Ukraine for a naval confrontation in the Sea of Azov. Jens Stoltenberg said that during his joint press conference with the Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We remain concerned by the heightened tensions in and around the Sea of Azov. There can be no justification for Russia's use of military force against Ukrainian ships and sailors,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Stating that Ukraine is a “highly valued partner” of NATO, Stoltenberg called on Russia to release the seized sailors and ships immediately, and allow free navigation in the sea.
“This is part of Russia’s pattern of destabilizing behavior. We see that in eastern Ukraine, where cease-fire violations are reported daily,” he said, referring to latest developments in the Sea of Azov.
Stoltenberg went onto say that NATO provided Ukraine with strong “political and practical support”.
On his part, Poroshenko said Russia crossed “red line” by opening fire in international waters and they would not allow the incident to be “ignored”.
Stoltenberg applied to Ukraine's President as Petro, showing support.
"President Poroshenko, I appreciate the calm and restraint Ukraine has demonstrated during the developments near the Sea of Azov. Escalation would be in no-one’s interest now. I also commend you for your commitment to the democratic process in view of next year’s elections in Ukraine. Good governance and reform will bring Ukraine closer to the Euro-Atlantic family. Important progress has already been made and we encourage Ukraine to continue on the path of reform. Including toward greater civilian control over the security and intelligence services, anti-corruption and minority rights.
Allies recognise Ukraine’s aspirations to join the Alliance. We want to see your country succeed. And we are committed to helping you do so.
So once again President Poroshenko, dear Petro, welcome to NATO, it’s always great to have you here."
As is known, in late November, the Russian Navy attacked the Ukrainian sailors. Three Ukrainian ships were on their way from Odesa to Mariupol to join the newly created Ukrainian naval base in the Sea of Azov. Russian naval vessels and aviation opened fire and wounded three Ukrainian servicemen. The ships and their crews were captured. Currently, 24 Ukrainian sailors face charges with the ‘illegal border crossing’, as they stay in detention centers in Moscow.