Ukraine says Russian Federation may be preparing to launch a large-scale ground invasion

A member of Russia's FSB security service escorts a detained Ukrainian navy sailor before a court hearing in Simferopol Crimea

As UNIAN reported earlier, Russian coast guard ships opened fire on a group of vessels of the Ukrainian Navy - two small-sized "Berdiansk" and "Nikopol" armored artillery boats and the "Yany Kapu" tugboat - as they were leaving the Kerch Strait on Sunday evening.

The move came after Russian forces fired on, boarded and captured three of Kiev's ships on Sunday off the coast of Crimea, sparking the most unsafe crisis between the ex-Soviet neighbours in years.

Russian forces boarded and captured the ships on Sunday, with Moscow accusing the vessels of illegally entering Russian waters off the coast of Crimea in the Sea of Azov.

The Ukrainian parliament late on Monday voted in favour of President Petro Poroshenko's request for the introduction of martial law in border areas for 30 days.

Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014, a conflict that has left over 10,000 dead, but fighting has eased since a truce in 2015. "And hopefully it will get straightened out", Trump told reporters as he left the White House.

Russia has so far refused to release them saying the sailors had crossed illegally into Russian waters and had also ignored warnings from its border guards.

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Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of military buildups and illegal activity in the area, with Kiev alleging that the Russians were preventing ships from passing through the strait. U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo later issued a statement saying that the USA "condemns this aggressive Russian action". "We're all working on it together".

Moscow is able to control access between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea after it built a bridge that straddles the Kerch Strait between Crimea and southern Russian Federation.

Ever since Russian Federation annexed the peninsula, it has begun to exert greater control over it, with Ukraine accusing it of blocking and harassing its ships and those bound for its ports beyond the straits.

A court in the Russian-annexed Crimea region on Tuesday ordered that several Ukrainian sailors be remanded for two months, pending trial, after their naval confrontation with Russian forces.

A member of Russia's FSB security service escorts a detained Ukrainian Navy sailor (R) before a court hearing in Simferopol, Crimea, November 27, 2018.

Ukraine declared martial law in part of the country following what it called Russia's "act of aggression".

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Putin told Merkel he was seriously concerned about Kiev's decision to put its armed forces on combat alert and impose martial law, telling Merkel he hoped Berlin would use its influence to stop Ukraine taking "further reckless steps".

In a post on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the incident had been devised to "divert attention from the internal problems that are ravaging Ukraine and blame the neighbor responsible for all of Ukraine's troubles".

Seized Ukrainian seamen speak on Russian TV, and it is not clear if they are speaking under duress.

The strait is spanned by a new bridge that Russia completed this year - the only land link from the Russian mainland to the annexed peninsula of Crimea.

It has raised fears of a wider escalation - in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014 - and prompted worldwide calls for restraint. It is the only outlet to the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov, location of major Ukrainian ports.

It clearly shows that the Russian ship did not change course as it bears down on the Ukrainian tugboat, apparently deliberately ramming the tugboat.

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