The U.S. State Department released a statement on Monday slamming Russia’s provocation with Ukraine over the weekend, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had harsh words for Russia.
The incident is a “dangerous escalation and violation of international law,” Pompeo said in the statement, adding that the U.S. condemns the “aggressive Russian action.”
Ukrainian Parliament voted on Monday to impose martial law, this after tense clashes with Russia in the Black Sea on Sunday, when Russian forces fired on and then seized three Ukrainian Naval vessels off the coast of Russia-controlled Crimea.
Russia claims the Ukrainian vessels had “illegally” entered its waters and were engaging in “illegal” activities. Russia also captured and is holding 23 Ukrainian sailors, some of whom are said to be wounded.
Ukraine’s martial law will last for 30 days starting Nov. 28. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had Monday signed a decree introducing martial law in the country for 60 days, until Jan. 25, 2019. The decree needed to be approved by Ukrainian Parliament in order to be in full effect.
Martial law is when a country imposes direct military control across normal functions of its government. This is often the response to a national disaster or major invasions. The last time Kyiv declared martial law was in 2014, when Russia seized and took control of the Crimean Peninsula in a war against eastern Ukraine, which is still being waged today.
Here is Pompeo’s full statement:
The United States expresses its deep concern over the incident in the Black Sea that occurred November 25 as Ukrainian vessels attempted to transit through the Kerch Strait. Reports that Russian vessels rammed and fired on the Ukrainian ships, injuring Ukrainian crewmen, before seizing three vessels, represent a dangerous escalation and a violation of international law.
The United States condemns this aggressive Russian action. We call on Russia to return to Ukraine its vessels and detained crew members, and to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.
We call on both parties to exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations and commitments. We urge Presidents Poroshenko and Putin to engage directly to resolve this situation. In that regard, we reiterate our support for the Normandy Four format.
The United States supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, as well as the right of its vessels to traverse international waters. As stated in our Crimea Declaration, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.