Russian-Ukrainian tensions dominate security meeting: FM

A view of the Nikopol and Berdyansk artillery boats (L-R front) and the Yani Kapu tugboat of the Ukrainian Navy detained by the Russian Federal Security Service in the Kerch Strait incident. Photo: Sergei Malgavko\TASS via Getty Images

The topic of Ukrainian-Russian tensions dominates the 25th OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Milan, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said on Thursday.

Minister Czaputowicz is in Milan, the northern Italian city that is hosting the conference that runs until Friday.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's largest security-oriented multilateral organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections.

The OSCE website states that the Ministerial Council is the central decision-making and governing body of the OSCE. The meeting, held annually, provides foreign ministers of 57 participating countries an opportunity to review and assess the organization’s activities and strengthen the dialogue on security issues in the OSCE area.

“The subject of tension in the Azov Sea between Ukraine and Russia dominates, and most representatives express their support for Ukraine,” the minister was quoted as saying by the Polish press agency, PAP.

The minister emphasised that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took “a very strong, defensive, but harsh position, not recognizing allegations of violation of international law”.

“We see a certain discrepancy, the Western world is united in the criticism of these aggressive actions, incompatible with international law. Russia defends itself and at the same time attacks, blaming others for the current situation in Ukraine… This is not a good situation,” he added.

The minister, speaking about the initiative of countries supporting Ukraine, stated that “solidarity is needed”.

The Crimean peninsula was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014. The annexation was accompanied by a military intervention by Russia in Crimea that took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and was part of wider unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine.

Conflict between Ukraine and Russia reignited after Russia’s attack on, and subsequent seizure of, three Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to cross through the narrow Kerch Strait between the Russian mainland and Russian-occupied Crimea. Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors were captured and face a charge of illegally crossing Russian borders, which carries a sentence of up to six years in prison.