MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian navy said Sunday that Russia's coast guard opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and wounded two crew members in the Black Sea following a tense standoff off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.
Ukraine's navy said that two of its vessels were struck and that Russian coast guard crews boarded them and a tugboat and seized them. The Russian Federal Security Service, known as the FSB and which is in charge of the coast guard, said that it has evidence that Ukraine was responsible for the clashes.
"There is irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations ... in the Black Sea," the FSB said in a statement. "These materials will soon be made public."
There have been growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has steadily worked to increase its zone of control around the peninsula.
Earlier Sunday, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over another incident involving the same three vessels, prompting Moscow to block passage through the Kerch Strait.
The Ukrainian vessels apparently wanted to travel through the strait to other ports in Ukraine, and Ukrainian authorities said they had given advance notice to the Russians.
The tensions began Sunday morning. Russia's coast guard said that the three Ukrainian vessels made an unauthorized crossing through Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine alleged that one of its boats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel.
Photos of the week: 11/16 - 11/23
Photos of the week: 11/16 - 11/23
Chicago police comfort one another as they leave the University of Chicago Medical Center Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 to join a procession accompanying an ambulance bearing the body of Officer Samuel Jimenez, who was shot and killed at a separate South Side hospital earlier Monday. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, climbs the border fence between Mexico and the United States, in Tijuana, Mexico, November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
PARADISE, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Tables and chairs remain next to a restaurant that was destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 21, 2018 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 150,000 acres, killed at least 83 people and has destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 85 percent containment and hundreds of people still remain missing. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
DONNA, TX - NOVEMBER 22: A U.S. Army soldier winds up to throw a football as he and other troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border celebrate Thanksgiving at a base near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge on November 22, 2018 in Donna, Texas. Culinary specialists prepared 34 Turkeys along with a full Thanksgiving buffet for the hundreds of troops stationed between Donna and Weslaco, Texas. (Photo by Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)
A woman checks her phone as balloons move through Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visits the Hubb Community Kitchen to see how funds raised by the 'Together: Our Community' cookbook are making a difference at Al Manaar, in London, Britain on November 21, 2018. Chris Jackson/Pool via REUTERS
Kira, a 23-year-old western lowland gorilla, holds her newborn baby in its enclosure at the Moscow Zoo in Moscow, Russia November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Steam rises from Fuego volcano (Volcano of Fire) as seen from San Juan Alotenango, outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People wait in line to pay at a Walmart during a sales event on Thanksgiving day in Westbury, New York, U.S., November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Santa Claus pays a visit on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
GREELEY CO - NOVEMBER 19: Christopher Watts is brought into court for his sentencing hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on November 19, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. Watts was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his pregnant wife, daughters. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A woman with her face painted takes part in a march against sexism and gender violence, in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Jacob Saylors, 11, looks at the wedding ring his mother Zeatra Saylor found in the burned remains of their home in Paradise, California on November 18, 2018. - The family lost a home in the same spot to a fire 10 years prior. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Josh Edelson has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Jacob Saylors] instead of [Jeremie Saylors]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump talks with troops via teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Migrant children, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America trying to reach the United States, play together in front of the border wall with the United States, while they rest in a temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Peas and Carrots, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate, walk in their hotel room at the Willard Hotel after being introduced to members of the media during a press conference held by the National Turkey Federation November 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. The two turkeys will both be 'pardoned' following the presentation of the national turkey to U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled for tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A boy plays on the glass at Thailand's first skywalk in Bangkok, Thailand November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Cable News Network (CNN) Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta departs after a judge temporarily restored Acosta's White House press credentials following a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Employee Jeferson Deodata da Silva selects a book from the shelves of the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on November 19, 2018. - The institution was founded in 1837 by a group of forty-three Portuguese immigrants -political refugees- to promote culture among the Portuguese community in Brazil. Opened to the public since 1900, the collection receives around 6,000 new titles a year and houses many rare and valuable books which are available to view by the public on request. (Photo by Carl DE SOUZA / AFP) (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Special Response Team (SRT) officers are seen through concertina wire at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after the land border crossing was temporarily closed to traffic in Tijuana, Mexico November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump receive the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man riding a motorbike passes over a burning barricade during a general strike in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SIVAS, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 17: A shepherd grazes his sheep after a snowfall in Hafik district of Turkey's Sivas province on November 17, 2018.
(Photo by Muzaffer Akyuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALTBURN BY THE SEA, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: A rainbow forms over a windswept North Sea on November 20, 2018 in Saltburn By The Sea, England. Cold easterly winds are expected to bring lower temperatures across the country this week. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Visitors view light installations as the illuminated trail opens at Kew Gardens in west London, Britain, November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Indian Muslim father tries to put his son on a camels back as other watches during a procession to celebrate Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi or the birthday of Prophet Mohammed in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
A pedestrian walks down a stairway through a row of trees during a rainy autumn day, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Birds sit on the back of a zebra in the Nairobi National Park, near Nairobi, Kenya, November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Romaine lettuce has been taken off the shelf for fear of an E. coli outbreak at this grocery store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
CHICO, CA - NOVEMBER 21: A Camp Fire evacuee carries his tent as rain falls at a temporary evacuation center next to a Walmart store on November 21, 2018 in Chico, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 150,000 acres, killed at least 81 people and has destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 80 percent containment and hundreds of people still remain missing. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
PARADISE, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 21: Search and rescue crews dig through the burnt remains of a business as they search for human remains on November 21, 2018 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 150,000 acres, killed at least 81 people and has destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. The fire is currently at 80 percent containment and hundreds of people still remain missing. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A school girl with painted face participates in an event to mark World Toilet Day in New Delhi, India, November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Chicago firefighters and police salute the ambulance carrying the body of Officer Samuel Jimenez outside of the Medical Examiners office at Leavitt and West Harrison streets in Chicago on Nov. 19, 2018. Jimenez was killed at Mercy Hospital today. (Armando Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A Charlie Brown balloon hovers above the crowd during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan,New York, U.S., November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A nun takes photos as a crane lifts a 21mt (68 feet) tall fir tree in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. The tree, which will be trimmed as a Christmas tree, comes from the Forest of Consiglio in north-eastern Italy and was donated by the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
TOPSHOT - A picture taken on November 20, 2018 shows new-born giraffe Ella and her mother Amalka at their enclosure at Berlin's Tierpark zoo. - Five-year old giraffe Amalka gave birth to the baby on November 3, 2018. (Photo by Paul Zinken / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read PAUL ZINKEN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: A parade participant makes a snow angel from confetti during the 92nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May joins a parent and baby group during a visit to the a health centre in north London, Thursday Nov. 22, 2018. (Andrew Matthews/Pool via AP)
In this Nov. 22, 2018, photo, Indian laborers standing on scaffolding shift steel rods from the ground to the top of an under construction hospital building in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, India. Building work in the capital region has resumed after authorities last week lifted a ban on construction activities they had imposed to combat air pollution. (AP Photo/R S Iyer, File)
The sun peaks over the horizon and lights up the sky along the West Palm Beach, Fla., waterfront, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
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The Kerch Strait is a narrow body of water nestled between Crimea and the Russian mainland.
The incident began after the Ukrainian navy claimed a Russian coast guard vessel rammed one of its tugboats, which was traveling with two Ukrainian navy artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait.
"Russian coast guard vessels ... carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships," the Ukrainian navy statement said. It said a Russian coast guard ship damaged the tugboat's engine, hull, side railing and a lifeboat.
The statement added that Russia had been informed in advance about the planned journey.
Russia then blocked off the strait.
The Kerch Strait is the only passage into the Sea of Azov beyond it. The strait is crossed by the recently completed Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to Russia. Transit under the bridge has been blocked by a tanker ship, and dozens of cargo ships awaiting passage are stuck.
Russia has not given any indication of how long it will keep the strait blocked off, but a long-term closure to civilian traffic would amount to an economic blockade of Ukrainian cities on the Azov coast. And Russia's Black Sea Fleet greatly outmatches the Ukrainian navy.
Ukrainian cities on the Sea of Azov include strategically vital centers such as Mariupol — the closest government-controlled city to Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
The FSB told Russian news agencies Sunday after the first incident that the Ukrainian ships held their course and violated Russian territorial waters. The FSB accused the Ukrainian navy of staging a provocation against Russia.
"Their goal is clear," an FSB statement said — "to create a conflict situation in the region." The statement didn't mention ramming a Ukrainian tugboat.
Though a 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement that Russia's actions were a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law, and pledged to "promptly inform our partners about Russia's aggressive actions."
"Such actions pose a threat to the security of all states in the Black Sea region," the statement said, "and therefore require a clear response from the international community."
Dmitry Kiselyov, a commentator on the state-controlled Rossiya channel, told viewers of his Sunday evening news program that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — encouraged by the U.S. — is looking to pick a fight with Russia in the Black Sea.
The talk show host also said that the U.S. talked Poroshenko into staging a provocation against Russia as a means to disrupt the upcoming meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at this week's Group of 20 summit in Argentina.
"What is happening now at the (Kerch) bridge threatens to turn into a very unpleasant story," Kiselyov warned.