21:47 GMT18 January 2021
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    Earlier, Kiev called on NATO to deploy warships in the Sea of Azov after last Sunday's incident which led Russia to seize three Ukrainian warships for illegally entering Russian territorial waters in the Kerch Strait.

    The Ukrainian military has carried out drills along the coast of the Sea of Azov, with the exercises' main goal being the defeat of 'enemy air targets' approaching from the sea, the press service of the Ukrainian military's Joint Forces Operation has reported.

    "Assault and army aviation simulated a strike by enemy air forces against units covering the sea coast. Crews of Ukrainian Armed Forces ZSU-23-4 Shilkas, Strela-10M combat vehicles and units of man-portable ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns conditionally destroyed the air targets," the military reported in a statement on its official Facebook page accompanied by a short video.

    The drills also saw air defence troops firing on air targets at various trajectories, including "low and extremely low altitudes," the statement said.

    Ukraine began a military buildup in and around the Sea of Azov earlier this year. Along with the construction of a naval base, Kiev has concentrated military aviation, ground forces and border patrol units in the region. Ukraine previously held drills in the region on November 23.

    Tensions between Russia and Ukraine hit a new low on November 25 after Ukrainian Navy gunboats violated Russia's territorial waters and proceeded to engage in dangerous maneuvers in and around the Kerch Strait. Russian border guards stormed the vessels and captured the vessels' crews. The vessels were later revealed to contain members of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), who are thought to have coordinated the operation.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a provocation, planned in advance, and said it was likely connected to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's low approval ratings ahead of upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine. Poroshenko introduced martial law across ten regions in eastern and southeastern Ukraine on Monday, using the Kerch Strait incident as a justification.

    US President Donald Trump cancelled his expected meeting with Putin at the G20 after being briefed on the Kerch Strait events. On Friday, European Council President Donald Trump said he was confident that Brussels would prolong sanctions against Russia over the incident.

    24 Ukrainian nationals, including sailors, naval officers and SBU officers remain under arrest until January 25, 2019. If convicted of illegally crossing the Russian state border, they may face up to six years in prison.


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