Kateryna Choursina and Stepan Kravchenko — National Post August 15, 2016
World powers urged Russia and Ukraine to refrain from ratcheting up a confrontation over Crimea as President Vladimir Putin bolstered the disputed peninsula’s military with some of his army’s most advanced air-defence missile systems.
The European Union said there was no independent confirmation of claims that Ukrainian agents had killed two Russian servicemen in Crimea. Putin pledged a “very serious” response as he blamed Kiev for pursuing “terror” activities. The 28-member bloc called on both sides to refrain from intensifying what has led to the worst diplomatic standoff between the two countries since a 2015 truce eased hostilities in Ukraine’s separatist conflict. Germany said that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, next week in Russia.
“We reiterate our condemnation and non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea,” European Commission spokesman Alexandre Polack said in Brussels on Friday. “There has been neither concrete evidence provided by Russia sustaining its claim nor any independent confirmation of the claims made by Russian authorities.”
The confrontation coincides with a surge in violence in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where government troops are fighting rebels who Kiev says are getting cash, weapons and fighters from Russia. The flareup torpedoed plans to revive four-way peace talks at the September Group of 20 meeting in China and raised warnings from analysts of a potential military conflict before Russia’s September parliamentary elections.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday, urged both sides to avoid escalating tensions. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also spoke with Lavrov Thursday, calling for both sides to avoid exacerbating the crisis.
The ruble weakened 0.5 per cent against the dollar in Moscow, the most since Aug. 1. The yield on 10-year government debt rose six basis points to 8.36 per cent. Ukraine’s hryvnia weakened 0.5 per cent at 3:09 p.m. in Kiev, and the yield on the country’s dollar-denominated note maturing in 2019 rose eight basis points to 7.878 per cent.
Russia deployed S-400 Triumph air defence systems in Crimea, the Moscow-based RIA Novosti news service reported on Friday. Putin may cut diplomatic ties with Ukraine if there’s no other option left, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, according to Interfax, another news service. The premier said there was a Ukrainian incursion into the territory, which he called a crime that needs to be investigated.