KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The Latest on the tensions between Russia and Ukraine(all times local):
NATO foreign ministers are meeting with Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin as the country seeks international backing for its Black Sea standoff with Russia.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the 28 other NATO foreign ministers will offer political support to Ukraine, but will not provide naval escorts or any military assistance beyond what’s being done now.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated last week when Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian navy vessels near the Russia-annexed Crimea peninsula. The vessels and their crews were captured.
Ahead of the two-day NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies are already doing a lot in the Black Sea and that now “we are closely monitoring the situation.”
Stoltenberg called Monday “for calm and restraint. Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships.”
Ukraine says traffic has resumed to and from its ports on the Sea of Azov following a standoff with Russia.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said merchant ships were moving through the Kerch Strait linking the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea.
Omelyan, who accused Russia last week of blocking the Strait for Ukrainian cargoes, said Tuesday that the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol have been “partially unblocked” thanks to a “stern international response.”
Russia, however, insisted that it never blocked vessels from traveling through the Kerch Strait and that any possible disruptions were linked to bad weather.
Relations between the two neighbors have been further strained over a Nov. 25 incident in which the Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews.