Ukrainian officials have banned Russian males between the ages of 16 and 60 from traveling to the country over fears they could form “private armies”.
- Ban is in response to heightening tensions between the neighbours
- It follows Russian border guards opening fire on three Ukrainian vessels near the Crimean Peninsula
- Russia has stated that it will not retaliate against the ban
The announcement on Friday is the latest escalation of tensions between the neighbours, and occurred at the same time the long-simmering conflict bubbled over Sunday when Russian border guards rammed into and opened fired on three Ukrainian vessels near the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
The vessels were trying to pass through the Kerch Strait on their way to the Sea of Azov; the Russians then captured the ships and their 24-member crew.
In response, the Ukrainian parliament on Monday adopted the president’s motion to impose martial law in the country for 30 days in the wake of the standoff, citing fears of a full-scale Russian invasion.
Petro Tsygykal, chief of the Ukrainian Border Guard Service, announced at a security meeting on Friday, that all Russian males between 16 and 60 will be barred from traveling to the country while martial law is in place.
“Today, the entry of foreigners is limited — primarily citizens of the Russian Federation — non-admission of citizens of the Russian Federation aged from 16 to 60, male,” he said.
“An enhanced control is being conducted on border check-points. The entrance is restricted today, first of all for citizens of the Russian Federation.”
President Petro Poroshenko told the meeting that the measures are taken “in order to prevent the Russian Federation from forming private armies” on Ukrainian soil.
Russia announced that it had no plans for a similar ban in retaliation.
Maria Zakharova, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, said such a move would be “just terrifying”.
“If anyone tries to retaliate to what is happening in Kiev now, it could lead to a crazy situation. If we’re talking about this on a national scale, then quite simply it could lead to meltdown,” she said.
She added that the decision would hurt “ordinary people”.
The announcement followed Thursday’s decision by US President Donald Trump to scrap his much-anticipated meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Mr Trump said it was not appropriate for him to meet with Mr Putin because Russia had not released the Ukrainian seamen.
Russian government-appointed ombudswoman for Crimea told Russian news agencies that all the seamen have been transported from a detention centre in Crimea.
The three commanders have been taken to Moscow, she said.
It was not immediately clear where the other 21 have been taken.
A Crimea court earlier this week ruled to keep the Ukrainian seamen behind bars for two months pending the investigation.
There has been growing hostility between Ukraine and Russia since Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia has also supported separatists in Ukraine’s east with clandestine dispatches of troops and weapons. Fighting there has killed at least 10,000 people since 2014 but eased somewhat after a 2015 truce.
The Ukranian ships were travelling from Odessa to Mariupol when they were stopped in the Kerch Strait. (ABC News: Graphic by Jarrod Fankhauser)