Senior Director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council Michael Carpenter, who served in the White House as a foreign policy advisor to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as well as on the National Security Council as Director for Russia, says that Russia's attack on three Ukrainian vessels near the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea on November 25 was a pre-planned ambush.
"Russian perfidy in the Kerch Strait was even worse than I thought. Just met in Kyiv with Ukraine's Navy Commander, Admiral [Ihor] Voronchenko, who said the (Russian) Kerch Maritime Authority had radioed the Ukrainians and requested they wait for an escort to pass the strait," he tweeted on Monday, December 10, after a meeting in Kyiv. "The Ukrainian trio of ships were directed to an anchorage to await further instructions. That's when they were ambushed by FSB boats and attack[ed by] helicopters. Only the tug was rammed because the small gunships were too fast. [The] FSB boats next opened fire on the retreating boats."
Carpenter said he had learnt that the Ukrainian side had also intercepted communications where the FSB instructed the Kerch Maritime Authority not to reply to the Ukrainian request for passage until the FSB boats were positioned to attack. "This was a pre-planned ambush, pure and simple," he said.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on the morning of November 25, Russia blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait for the Ukrainian tugboat "Yany Kapu" and two armored naval boats "Berdyansk" and "Nikopol," which were on a scheduled re-deployment from the Black Sea port of Odesa to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol. The Ukraine Navy Command noted that the Russian side had been informed of the plans to re-deploy the vessels in advance in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation. The Russian coast guard ship "Don" rammed the Ukrainian tugboat, damaging the Ukrainian vessel. As the Ukrainian boats were heading back in the Odesa direction after being rejected passage via the Kerch Strait, Russian coast guards opened aimed fire on them. All 24 crew members on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, being charged with "illegal border crossing" (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison). Three crewmen were wounded in the attack. Russian-controlled "courts" in occupied Crimea ruled that all 24 detainees should be remanded in custody, after which they were transferred to the Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina detention centers.