World Russia, Ukraine expel diplomats as tensions soar
Ukraine turns to Turkey as Russia threatens full-scale war
Ukrainian President Zelensky meets Turkey’s Erdogan at a time of heightened Russia-Ukraine tensions.“Turkey’s support for the restoration of our sovereignty and territorial integrity is extremely important,” Zelensky stated in a joint press-conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Russia on Saturday said it would expel a Ukrainian diplomat, prompting an immediate pledge of retaliation from Kiev, further escalating tensions over Moscow's troop build-up on Ukraine's eastern flank.
The detention of a Ukrainian consul in the second city Saint Petersburg comes at a time of global concern of a repeat of Moscow's 2014 aggression, when Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea and backed separatists in Ukraine's east.
Moscow claimed the Ukrainian diplomat had been caught "red-handed" trying to obtain sensitive information.
What is behind the growing tensions in Ukraine?
The Ukrainian government’s push for NATO membership could provoke a dangerous escalation of the Ukrainian conflict.Western observers have been speculating that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to test US President Joe Biden’s resolve or that he wants to distract public attention in Russia from the plight of the first poisoned, then imprisoned opposition leader Aleksey Navalny. It is also not inconceivable that he might be entertaining the idea of replicating the “Crimea effect” by waging “a small victorious war” on the eve of parliamentary elections in September. In 2014, the annexation of Crimea resulted in a huge surge in his personal popularity.
In response, the Ukrainian foreign ministry protested "the illegal" detention of its diplomat and said Kiev would expel a senior Russian diplomat.
Kiev has been battling Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and clashes intensified early this year, effectively shredding a ceasefire agreed last July.
Around 30 Ukrainian troops have been killed since the start of the year, compared to 50 last year. Most of them were victims of sniper fire.
Russia has detained a number of Ukrainian nationals on suspicion of spying in recent years but the arrest of a diplomat is rare.
"A Ukrainian diplomat, a consul of Ukraine's Consulate General in Saint Petersburg, Alexander Sosonyuk, has been detained by Russia's FSB," the security service said in a statement, using the Russian language spelling of his name.
Russia seeking to ‘provoke’ Ukraine conflict, Germany says
Defence minister’s accusation comes as Western powers pile pressure on Russia over its military buildup at the border.Moscow has in recent weeks amassed tens of thousands of troops as well as tanks and artillery near Ukraine’s eastern border. It also mobilised troops in the annexed Black Sea region of Crimea, which it seized in March 2014.
He was held on Friday, the security service said. Kiev said the diplomat had spent several hours in detention.
The Russian foreign ministry said Saturday it had summoned Ukraine's charge d'affaires Vasyl Pokotylo and told him that the Ukrainian diplomat had 72 hours to leave the country "beginning April 19".
Video: Will US sanctions work against Russia? (Al Jazeera)
"The Russian side pointed to the inadmissibility of such kind of activity," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Russia's domestic intelligence agency said Sosonyuk had been caught "red-handed" during a meeting with a Russian national as he sought to receive "classified" information.
"Such activity is not compatible with his diplomatic status and is clearly hostile in nature towards the Russian Federation," the FSB said.
"In conformity with international law, measures will be taken against the foreign diplomat."
Ukraine slams Russia's 'open' threats, vows firm response
Ukraine on Thursday accused Russia of flagrantly threatening it with destruction and warned Moscow that any escalation of fighting would be met with a firm military response. Tensions have risen once again in the long-simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Kiev and its Western allies this week have sounded the alarm over a huge build-up of Russian military personnel along Ukraine's northern and eastern borders, as well as on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.
- 'Crude violations' -
In Kiev, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said it protested the diplomat's detention and rejected Russia's accusations.
Foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Russia had "crudely" violated diplomatic conventions and sought to escalate tensions.
"In response to the above-mentioned provocation, a senior diplomat of the Russian embassy in Kiev must leave Ukrainian territory within 72 hours beginning April 19," Nikolenko told AFP. He did not provide further details.
Faced with the largest deployment of Russian troops on Ukraine's borders since 2014, President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested more help from the West, and Western leaders have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop intimidating Ukraine.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine come against the background of a new war of words between Moscow and Washington as new US President Joe Biden seeks a tougher line against Putin.
The US on Thursday announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what the White House says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.
Russia said Friday it would expel US diplomats and sanction US officials in response while recommending the US envoy leave Russia "for consultations".
Navalny Is Showing Russia What Courage Is .
Putin wants people to think that bravery is futile.Navalny is Russia’s most important opposition leader, and he was flying home from Berlin after spending many weeks in a hospital there, following the second or perhaps the third attempt on his life. He’d survived because a German NGO had sent a plane to Omsk to take him out of Russia, because the Novichok nerve agent used to poison him doesn’t always kill you right away, and because the Russian hospital had agreed to let him go, probably on the assumption that he would never return.