In the midst of a spiral of tension, Ukraine accused Russia to block their access to the sea.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Thursday that the two seas to the south of the country are isolated by Russian forces.
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Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine despite massing numerous tanks, artillery and more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine.
But Moscow has just started massive military exercises with its ally Belarus, which shares a long border with Ukraine, and will hold naval exercises next week.
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France called the drills a “violent gesture” while Ukraine says they are a form of “psychological pressure.”
The United States, for its part, urged its nationals in Ukraine on Thursday to leave immediately due to “increasing threats of Russian military action.”
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Europe is facing its “biggest security crisis in decades.”
Russian naval exercises
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that “the unprecedented vast area where the maneuvers will take place makes navigation on both seas practically impossible.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted that the international waters of the two seas south of his country have been blocked by Russia.
He was referring to the naval exercises that Russia will carry out next week in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.
Russia has issued coastal warnings citing missile and artillery firing exercises, adding to the 10-day Russian military exercises with Belarusnorth of Ukraine.
Tensions have been high between Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov regions since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. In 2018, Russia seized three Ukrainian warships.
The military exercises in Belarus, known as Allied Resolve 2022, are taking place near Belarus’s border with Ukraine, which is just over 1,000 km (620 miles) long. Some 30,000 Russian soldiers are believed to have been deployed.
It is feared that if Russia tries to invade Ukraine, the exercises will bring the Russian army closer to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, making it easier to attack the city.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the two countries have created a so-called “Union State,” which includes economic and military integration.
Russia says its troops will return to their permanent bases after the exercises end, but Ukraine and its Western allies have raised concerns.
“The build-up of forces on the border is psychological pressure from our neighbors,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.
The military exercises come as world leaders continue their frantic diplomacy in a bid to defuse the ongoing crisis over Ukraine.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday. She said Russia should move its troops away from the Ukrainian border if it is serious about using diplomacy to defuse the crisis.
Lavrov said he was disappointed with the talks and accused Truss of not listening to Russia’s concerns.
Moscow says it cannot accept that Ukraine, a former Soviet republic with deep social and cultural ties to Russia, could one day join the Western defense alliance NATO, and has demanded that it be scrapped.
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