Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of the armed clash near the Kerch Strait on November 25, 2018, Interfax reported.
“As for the incident in the Black Sea, this was indeed a provocation organized by the current [Ukrainian] government, including the current president ahead of the presidential elections which will be held in Ukraine next March,” Putin said at the "Russia Calling!" investment forum.
“A small incident in the Black Sea and martial law was introduced. It is obviously being done before the presidential elections. This is an absolutely obvious fact," said the president of Russia.
Putin claims that the Ukrainian ships entered “the Russian territorial waters”. They “did not respond to the calls from our border service.”
“After violating our border, they were asked to take Russian ship pilots aboard, but there was silence in response. They did not respond at all,” added the Russian president.
Putin said the actions of the Russian border guards, who opened fire towards the Ukrainian ships, were justified.
How should the border guards have acted? Military vessels invaded the territorial waters of the Russian Federation and did not respond to orders. It was not clear what they were going to do. If the border guards had acted differently, they would all have been brought to justice. They fulfilled their military duty, the orders,” Putin said.
On the morning of November 25, Ukraine informed the Russian port of its intention to transfer three ships through the Kerch Strait, as required by the Agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. However, at around 8:00 a.m., Russian ships carried out acts of provocation against the Ukrainian vessels, even ramming into the Yany Kapu tugboat.
Russia later accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its territorial waters, claiming that they were “maneuvering dangerously” and “not complying with the legitimate demands of the Russian authorities”. Russia also physically blocked the Kerch Strait with a transport ship. The Ukrainian ships decided to return to Odessa, but they were chased and subsequently attacked by the Russian military. The Berdiansk and Nikopol boats were hit, and two crew members were wounded. All three of the ships were seized by Russia.