The Kerch Strait, a major shipping channel near the Crimean peninsula, has reportedly been blocked off to all civilian vessels. It comes after the Russian navy reported seeing a Ukrainian ship in the vicinity and confirmed they were monitoring its movements.
Russian intelligence service (FSB) claimed the vessel did not react to a request to change its course.
Meanwhile, the world watches on as Russia and Ukraine teeter on the brink of war, hoping an altercation in the Black Sea or nearby Sea of Azov does not materialise. If it does, it could be the moment that lights the touchpaper and paves the way to conflict.
A maritime source told Russian news agency TASS that “not a single ship” is currently in the channel.
According to the portal Marinetraffic, dozens of ships have accumulated at the entrances to the strait from the Black and Azov Seas.
The Russian FSB later said the Ukrainian military vessel is no longer approaching Kerch Strait, but not fully complying with requests to change course.
Ukrainian Joint Forces said command ship Donbas did not enter “sensitive zones” around Kerch Strait
The Ukrainian defence minister added it was a search-and-rescue ship with no weapons on board.
It is understood the Ukrainian vessels left a port in the city of Mariupol on Wednesday morning and then sailed towards the Kerch Strait.
Coastguards from both sides then reportedly clashed at around 1pm local time over whether the vessel needed an application to sail in those waters.
An FSB notice said: “”At present, the Donbass is located at a distance of 18 nautical miles to the Kerch Strait, it does not comply with the requirement to change the course.
“These actions pose a threat to the safety of navigation.”
The incident resembles a flashpoint in November 2018 which saw three Ukrainian Navy vessels being captured by the FSB Coast Guard.
More to follow…