Europe Politics

'Once again, we see Russian contempt for international norms': What the world's saying about the Ukrainian ship seizures

Key Points
  • Russia's seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels, and 23 crew members, on Sunday.
  • Ukraine wants to see Western sanctions extended on its powerful neighbor Russia.
  • Moscow said the vessels had illegally entered its waters off the coast of Crimea.
Russian jet fighters fly over a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula after three Ukrainian navy vessels were stopped by Russia from entering the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea, Crimea November 25, 2018. 
REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov

The bad blood between Russia and Ukraine is nothing new, but the latest clash between the two nations has got the international community talking about Russia, again.

Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and their 23 crew members in the Kerch Strait, a channel that separates the Sea of Azov and Black Sea, to the south of Ukraine and Russia, on Sunday. Ukraine said the incident was an "act of aggression," while Russia said the ships had violated its waters.

Needless to say, most Western nations were unequivocal in their support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia. CNBC has a selection of comment and reaction from around the world:


Unusually for Donald Trump — or perhaps not, given his placatory stance towards Russia — the president has been uncharacteristically laid back about the incident, telling reporters Monday that "we do not like what's happening either way. And hopefully it will get straightened out," Reuters reported.

Trump said European leaders were working on the situation. "They're not thrilled. We're all working on it together," he said. Perhaps in a reference to the incident, he later tweeted that Europe has to pay more via NATO for its military protection.

European Union (EU)

Like the U.S., the EU has various sanctions on Russian individuals, entities and sectors that it deems to have had a role in the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, as well as the pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine in the same year.

It could extend those sanctions beyond various months in 2019. EU Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his condemnation of Russia's "use of force" Monday.


Having had its own international spat with Russia earlier this year, after the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter that the U.K. blamed on Russia, Downing Street again was critical of Russia after the incident with Ukraine.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday that, "One again, we see Russian contempt for international norms and Ukrainian sovereignty."


The military alliance between North American and Europe has been characteristically cautious about the incident. Nevertheless, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu tweeted a statement in which the alliance called for "restraint and de-escalation."

The Baltics

The reaction from Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is telling, given the fact that these nations — countries that were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 — have also experienced numerous skirmishes and maritime (and airborne) provocations by Russia's military in the Baltic Sea.


Estonia's Foreign Ministry tweeted not one, but three tweets about the incident, stating in one that there had not been enough action over Russia's "occupation" of Crimea and adding that, "War in Europe will not, shall not and cannot ever again be accepted as business as usual."


Meanwhile, Latvia's presidential Twitter account commented that the international community "must respond."


Lithuania's Foreign Ministry said Russia's action was an "act of open military aggression."



France's Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs tweeted its "deep concern" about the incident, saying it was a direct consequence of Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Tweet France


"Canada strongly condemns Russia's actions against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait," a statement released by Canada's Foreign Ministry on Monday stated.

"We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured crew and vessels and not impede passage through the Kerch Strait."


As a country that has a major border on the Black Sea, like Russia, Turkey has an acute interest in any dispute arising from shipping in the region.

In a statement Monday, Ankara stated that it is watching "the developments and the escalating tensions in the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait… As a littoral state of the Black Sea, we emphasize that freedom of passage at the Kerch Strait should not be hindered.

"We urge all parties to refrain from steps endangering regional peace and stability, to respect international law and to act in common sense and restraint to avoid increasing the tensions."

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