Russia ‘fires on, seizes’ Ukrainian ships in major escalation of Crimea tensions

A Ukrainian soldier raises a Ukrainian navy flag on board the navy ship Ternopil in the port of Sevastopol. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

The Ukrainian government says Russia has opened fire on its navy off the coast of Crimea and seized some vessels in an encounter that has left two Ukraine sailors injured, according to multiple reports.

According to the BBC, Ukraine alleges Russian special forces captured two of its gunboats and a tug after a chase.

Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko convened an emergency meeting of his “war cabinet”, the BBC reported.

Moscow is yet to comment on the claims. Russia has been steadily increasing its control around the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014.

Over the weekend, Russia used a huge tanker to block passage through the Kerch Strait, an access route to other parts of Ukraine for its ships.

A view of Crimean Bridge across the Kerch Strait closed for the passage of civil vessels. Photo by Alexei Pavlishak/TASS via Getty Images

The Associated Press reported the Ukrainian vessels involved in the incident wanted to pass through the strait and had given notice to the Russians.

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs condemned the Russian action and called on Moscow to de-escalate the situation.

An video by a conflict-related Twitter account claimed to show video of a Russian vessel ramming a smaller Ukrainian vessel. Business Insider has been unable to verify the video at this stage.

More to come…