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France urges Russia and Ukraine to 'show restraint'

AFP file photo | The foreign ministers of Russia and France, Sergei Lavrov (left) and Jean-Yves Le Drian.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday called on both Moscow and Kiev to de-escalate tensions during a joint press conference in Paris with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

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Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea on Sunday after opening fire on them and wounding several sailors, a move that has ignited a new crisis between the two former Soviet countries.

Following talks in Paris on Tuesday, France's Le Drian urged Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors, adding that he would also urge his Ukrainian counterpart to ease tensions in the region.

The "remilitarisation of the Azov Sea will only aggravate tensions", Le Drian told Lavrov, referring to the sea that lies between Russia and Ukraine and is linked by the narrow Kerch Strait to the Black Sea.

'The more military might you put in the area the more jittery you become'

Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia illegally blocked the Kerch Strait and acted against international law by grabbing the vessels and sailors.

But Moscow has accused the Ukrainian boats of unlawfully entering Russian waters, a stance reiterated by Lavrov on Tuesday.

Ukraine must be told "not to play with fire", Lavrov told reporters in Paris, accusing Kiev of "intentionally provoking" the incident at sea.

 

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