Adding to tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the situation in Ukraine, a Russian fighter jet made numerous close-range passes near a US Navy ship in the western Black Sea over the weekend.  The action came as Ukraine is confronting continuing conflicts with pro-Russian separatists that have recently escalated.

From Agence France-Presse (via Yahoo News):

A Russian fighter jet made several passes at low altitude near a US destroyer cruising in international waters in the Black Sea at the weekend, the Pentagon said Monday, branding it “provocative and unprofessional.”

The incident close to the Romanian coast further heightens tensions already inflamed by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and stands accused of stoking unrest.

The US vessel was sent to the Black Sea on April 10 in a show of Washington’s solidarity with its Eastern European NATO allies concerned about Russia’s actions.

Colonel Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “On April 12, a Russian Su-24 made numerous close-range, low-altitude passes in the vicinity of the USS Donald Cook, while the Cook was conducting operations in international waters in the western Black Sea.

“The aircraft did not respond to multiple queries and warnings from Donald Cook. The event ended without incident after approximately 90 minutes.”

He added: “This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on a professional interaction between our militaries.”

Another military official who spoke anonymously to AFP described that during some of its passes, the plane had come close to less than 1,000 meters from the ship.

Tensions of course have been high throughout the continuing crisis in Ukraine, especially after recent conflicts in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russia militants had seized several government and security buildings over the weekend.  The incidents prompted the Ukraine government to issue a deadline for protesters to disarm and vacate buildings and the announcement of an anti-terrorist operation.

But by Monday, pro-Russia forces did not appear to be backing down, with reports of yet another building being taken over – this time in Horlivka –  and the continued occupation of other buildings in eastern Ukraine, according to CNN.

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov on Monday said Ukraine would welcome the assistance of United Nations peacekeepers, and reaffirmed concerns about Russia’s intentions.

From a statement posted at Turchynov’s official website, in which he recounted a phone conversation with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon:

According to O. Turchynov, the situation in the East of Ukraine, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, completely repeats the scenario of Russia in the Crimea.

“The Russian Federation sends special units to the East of our country that conduct armed seizure of the administrative buildings and threaten lives of hundreds of thousands of our citizens,” he said explaining that the situation is different from that in the Crimea “because the majority of people do not want to support separatists”.

The Chairman of the Parliament informed that a large-scale counterterrorist operation has begun in order to protect civil population of our country.

“Ukrainian citizens ask the government to protect them from terrorism and armed criminals. We cannot leave our citizens alone with armed terrorists who threaten their life and health and try to tear our country to pieces,” he said.

At the same time, O. Turchynov emphasized that the government “takes measures that must stabilize the situation in the region”.

Particularly, it goes about the reformation of legislation in the context of decentralization of power.

“It goes about significant broadening of territorial communities’ powers, formation of executive bodies by local councils and expanding material resources of local government,” he said.

He stressed that the government is willing to cooperate with public representatives from all regions of Ukraine in order to establish a constructive dialogue with everyone, “but we will fight back terrorism and Russian aggression”.

Russia on Monday again denied any involvement in fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine, while a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told Interfax that he was “receiving many appeals from eastern Ukraine… calling on him to help in some form,” reported the BBC.

[Featured image: YouTube video]


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