Germany, China seek to defuse Kerch Strait tensions, as Austria worries over impact on Ukraine vote

Monday, November 26, 2018
By Paul Martin
26 Nov, 2018

The German Foreign Minister has urged Russia and Ukraine to defuse tensions after their naval clash off the Crimean coast. Austria said that Kiev imposing martial law was a “worrying” step ahead of Ukraine’s presidential vote.

A brief but intense standoff between Ukrainian Navy ships and the Russian coast guard off the Crimean coast was an “alarming” event, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. He called upon both sides to de-escalate tensions, while also criticizing Moscow for what he called “a blockade of a passageway to the Azov Sea.”

Speaking in Madrid, Maas also said that Germany and France could play the role of “mediators” between Russia and Ukraine “in case of need.” Berlin and Paris are ready to jointly step in at a diplomatic level to prevent “this conflict from exacerbating any further,” he said.

Maas’ initial statement came hours before the Kerch port authorities said that merchant ships have been allowed to sail through the strait. Russia had suspended maritime traffic in the Kerch Strait following the incident on Sunday by sending a giant bulk freighter to block the only waterway connecting the Black and Azov Seas.

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