Trump gears up for possible Putin meeting as Ukraine tensions rise

29 November, 2018, 00:46 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • Russia is sending a new division of S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems to Crimea in a new sign of heightened tensions. Here one of the systems is carried during the Victory Day military parade Russia held in May

The operation on the evening of November 25 by naval elements of Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, backed by Spetsnaz special forces, resulted in three Ukrainian vessels being illegally seized and 24 sailors captured and imprisoned.

Moscow will soon deploy more of its advanced S-400 air defence systems in Crimea, a military official said.

Several senior European politicians raised the prospect on Tuesday and US President Donald Trump said he might cancel a meeting with Putin later this week over the maritime clash he described as "aggression".

The Kremlin called the introduction of martial law a "reckless" act that "potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region in the southeast" of Ukraine.

The developments come as Russian forces fired on and seized three Ukranian vessels and 24 members of their crews on Sunday in the Black Sea and Kiev imposed 30 days of martial law in response.

National Security adviser John Bolton said Mr Trump will also be meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Argentine president Mauricio Macri, South Korea's Moon Jae-in, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

"That was a provocation which was certainly organized by the sitting officials, including the president, " ahead of Ukraine's presidential election in March, Putin said.

Trump said he would be receiving a "full report" from his national security team on Russia's recent actions in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea.

Earlier Wednesday, the Russian military announced it would be boosting the defenses of the occupied Crimean peninsula with more anti-aircraft missiles in the wake of the standoff.

The state-run RIA news agency said the new S-400 systems would be operational by the end of the year.

Austria, which now holds the rotating European Union presidency, has said the bloc will consider further sanctions against the Kremlin at an upcoming meeting.

Western leaders have faced criticism for what some observers have said was a slow, stumbling response to the developing crisis in Kerch, with tweeted statements of condemnation and concern standing as the only western response for nearly two days.

Russian Federation and Ukraine blamed each other in the dispute that further ratcheted up tensions ever since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and threw its weight behind separatists in eastern Ukraine with clandestine support, including troops and weapons.

"Maybe I won't have the meeting (with Putin)", he is quoted as saying.

Some of the sailors will face trial in Simferopol - the main city in Russian-annexed Crimea - on Tuesday, the peninsula's human rights ombudsman Lyudmila Lubina told AFP.

He added that Trump needs to take this tough stance toward Putin, because toughness is all the Russian leader understands. "What they are saying now is not true", he told Ukrainian media.



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