Russian Coast Guard ships has rammed an Ukrainian Navy tugboat, named Yana Kapu, during a confrontation in the Sea of Azov off the Crimean Peninsula on Nov. 25, Ukrainian Navy said in a statement.
The Navy said the incident happened as three of its ships including two small armored artillery boats, named Berdyansk and Nikopol, were transiting from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait between Crimea and Russia. The ships were sailing to Mariupol following a homeport change.
The Ukrainian Navy ships were confronted by Russian Coast Guard vessels including a Project 745P Sorum-class seagoing tug, named Don; Suzdalets corvette; Project 12200 Sobol class patrol boats and Project 12150 Mangust class patrol boats. The Russian Coast Guard is part of the Border Guard Service of Russia under the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB).
According to the Navy statement, Don has rammed the Ukrainian tug and as a result the main engine of the ship, hull, and guardrail was damaged.
FSB’s Crimean border department said in a statement that the Ukrainian Navy vessels entered the waters illegally and deliberately provoked the conflict.
“This morning at around 07.00 Moscow time, three ships of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, in violation of Articles 19 and 21 of the United Nations Convention of Sea Law, defining the coastal state’s right to ensure safety in maritime space, crossed the Russian state border, unlawfully entering the off-limits water area of Russian sea territory,” the FSB said in a statement.
The Sea of Azov has been an area of heightened tensions between Moscow and Kiev since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014. Russia has control over access to the Sea of Azov as it controls the Kerch Strait, and Kyiv accuses Moscow of harassing ships heading for Ukrainian ports, such as Mariupol. Both sides have recently increased their military presence in the Azov region.