Russia reopens Kerch Strait to shipping after standoff with Ukraine

Kerch Strait
Kerch Strait in Crimea

Russia reopened the Kerch Strait near Crimea to shipping in the early hours of Monday morning after firing on and seizing three Ukrainian naval ships a day earlier, a move that triggered a dangerous new crisis between the two countries.

Russia’s FSB security service said early on Monday its border patrol boats had seized two small Ukrainian armored artillery vessels and a tug boat after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors. It is the most serious clash between Moscow and Kiev in years.

Russia had previously blocked the Kerch Strait near Russia-annexed Crimea to stop the ships from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov, saying the small flotilla had not notified it of its plans in advance and ignored warnings to stop while maneuvering dangerously.

With relations still raw after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its backing for a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, the incident risks pushing the two countries toward a wider conflict and is likely to renew Western calls for more sanctions on Moscow.

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The Russian rouble opened 0.4 percent weaker against the dollar in Moscow, its lowest since mid-November.

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