No increased threat to Poland from Russia-Ukraine crisis: defence minister

There are no signs that a naval standoff between Ukraine and Russia poses an increased threat to Poland, the defence minister in Warsaw said on Monday.

Mariusz Błaszczak was speaking after Russia on Sunday seized three Ukrainian navy ships near the annexed Crimea peninsula, in what international news agencies have described as the most dangerous crisis between Moscow and Kiev in years.

The Ukrainian navy said on Sunday that several Ukrainian sailors were injured after Russian forces opened fire on the vessels in the Kerch Strait, a narrow body of water separating the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov and dividing Crimea from southern Russia.

Polish national security “services have not reported an increased level of threat to Poland as a result of the situation in Ukraine,” Błaszczak said after conferring with top military and security chiefs in Warsaw on Monday.

He also told a news conference that he had instructed military commanders and state agency chiefs “to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and to report continually on how it develops.”

Błaszczak noted that both Ukraine and Russia were Poland’s neighbours.

“So what is happening in eastern Ukraine also affects the situation in Poland,” he said.

Błaszczak also said that “the Polish government opposes any actions that violate international order and constitute breaches of international law.”

The Polish foreign ministry has urged Russia to respect international law and condemned Moscow’s “aggressive actions”.

Amid escalated tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the foreign ministry in Warsaw called in a statement for restraint on both sides.

The “situation in the Sea of Azov” is “serious” and may have far-reaching implications for both Ukraine and the entire region, the Polish president’s chief of staff said on Monday.

Russia’s FSB security service said the Ukrainian ships had entered Russian territorial waters illegally.

A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry has accused the Ukrainian authorities of “provocation.”

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