- Ukrainian servicemen captured during clashes between Russia and Ukraine on Sunday gave bizarre testimony broadcast on Russian state TV.
- The men said they deliberately ignored warnings and were aware that the presence of their ships in the tense Sea of Azov was provocative.
- Ukraine’s Navy commander fired back and said the men were forced to give false statements under pressure.
- Russia confirmed that its ships attacked Ukrainian vessels off the coast of Crimea in a major escalation of tensions in the region on Sunday.
- Ukraine will temporarily enforce martial law starting on Wednesday and has claimed that Russia may be planning a full-scale invasion.
Ukrainian servicemen captured during clashes with Russia on Sunday made bizarre video confessions broadcast on Russian state TV.
On Sunday, Russia confirmed that its ships attacked Ukrainian vessels off the coast of Crimea in a major escalation of tensions in the region.
Ukraine says Russia opened fire on its navy and seized three of its vessels, injuring at least six of its servicemen. Russia claims that the ships entered its waters illegally, and that it gave the Ukrainian crews warning to turn back.
Late Monday, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) released videos of three men it says were involved in the showdown at sea. Russian state media quickly circulated the bizarre messages that spoke of “deliberate” action and “provocation” against Russian forces.
Volodymyr Lisovyi, pictured above, claimed in a video to be a commander of a military unit and said he carried out the mission to pass through the Kerch Strait – the only access point to the Sea of Azov, shared by both Ukraine and Russia. He also said he ignored requests by Russia to stop on purpose.
“I was aware that the presence of a group of Ukrainian Navy ships in the Kerch Strait was a provocation in its nature,” he said. He added that there were machine guns and other arms on board.
Andriy Drach, another serviceman, said in his testimony that he was operating on an order to travel from Odessa to Mariupol, which would require travel through the Kerch Strait.
“We were warned by the border service of the Russian Federation that we were violating Russian law,” he said. “They had repeatedly asked us to leave the territorial waters of the Russian Federation.”
A third man gave similar testimony.
Ihor Voronchenko, Ukraine’s Navy commander, said on Ukrainian TV that the men were forced to give false statements under pressure.
“I know those sailors from Nikopol,” he said. “They have always been honest professionals in their jobs. And what they say now is not true.”
Voronchenko said Sunday his crews and vessels placed near the Kerch Strait were on combat alert.
Tensions have significantly heightened in Crimea. Russia has been steadily increasing its control of the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, and Russia recently completed its construction of a massive 18-kilometer (11.2 mile) bridge linking the Crimea peninsula to mainland Russia.
Ukraine on Monday imposed martial law in parts of the country as President Petro Poroshenko warned of the “extremely serious” threat of invasion by Russian forces.
“Russia has been waging a hybrid war against our country for a fifth year. But with an attack on Ukrainian military boats it moved to a new stage of aggression,” Poroshenko said.