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Iran Press TV

UK reaffirms support for Ukraine in face of Russia 'aggression'

Iran Press TV

Mon Dec 24, 2018 09:00AM

The UK has reaffirmed its support for Ukraine in the face of "Russian aggression," as Moscow and Kiev continue to trade barbs over political and territorial disputes.

"The UK is a steadfast partner to Ukraine as it faces continued illegal acts of aggression against its sovereignty," British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart, Stepan Poltorak, on a visit to Odessa on Friday.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated earlier this year after Ukraine seized two Russian ships for port calls on Crimea, which rejoined Russia in a 2014 referendum.

The move prompted Russia to increase patrols in the Sea of Azov to guarantee free navigation for its ships.

The issue took a turn for worse last month, when Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships off the coast of Crimea.

The Sea of Azov is a strategic ocean route linked to the Black Sea by the narrow Strait of Kerch, where Russia has built a bridge to link the Crimean Peninsula with the mainland.

During his stay in Odessa, Williamson also paid a visit to the HMS Echo, a British Royal Navy warship that arrived in Odessa two days earlier and was slated to enter the Black Sea in the coming days.

The British defense secretary said the ship's deployment, which was accelerated following the recent tensions, sends a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"What we are saying to Russia, what we are saying to President Putin - they cannot continue to act with no regard or care for international laws or international norms," he said.

"HMS Echo's deployment is a further demonstration of our resolute support and commitment to cooperate with the Ukrainian military," he added.

Williamson and Poltorak also discussed the UK's military ongoing training mission to Ukraine.

Called Operation Orbital, the mission began in 2015 with the declared goal of improving medical, logistics, ground sign awareness and general infantry skills of Ukraine military forces. Williamson said during his last Ukraine visit in September that the operation would be extended until 2020.

This is the latest in a series of open accusations of "aggression" the UK has leveled against Russia.

Last week, Putin dismissed constant attacks by British officials as parts of a broad campaign of Russophobia, saying London was always thinking of plots to undermine Moscow's growing clout at the international stage.

The Russian head of state said ties with the UK has hit a "deadlock" but Moscow was still interested in restoring full relations.

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