Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Russian officials said Tuesday they plan to charge Ukrainian sailors captured in the shared Sea of Azov, upping the tension between the two countries.
Prosecutors plan to charge the sailors with making an illegal border crossing, but their initial arrest Sunday angered Ukrainian and western leaders. They say the three confiscated Ukrainian ships were well within their rights to sail in the Kerch Strait, where they were stopped.
The Kremlin said the sailors would be arraigned at a court in the city of Simferopol in Crimea, which was forcibly annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
A strongly-worded statement from Russia's foreign ministry called the response to the incident "artificial hysteria" by Kiev and the West for political reasons.
"Clearly, all of this was also designed to distract attention from the domestic political problems that exist in Ukraine," the statement said. "This assumption is further corroborated by Kiev's plans to impose martial law in the country, a move which is odious in the light of the upcoming presidential elections in the spring of 2019.
"We are also outraged by the Ukrainian radicals unleashing another attack on Russia's diplomatic missions, and the damage it caused."
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has called Russia's actions an "outrageous violation."
"In the name of international peace and security, Russia must immediately cease its unlawful conduct and respect the navigational rights and freedoms of all states," Haley told a U.S. Security Council meeting.
While Ukraine complained about what it called an economic blockade in the strait since Russia took over Crimea, there was little international response, BBC News reported. In response, Ukraine has moved to increase its naval presence in the area.