Russia demanded Ukraine return two Russian soldiers reportedly abducted from the Crimean peninsula after Kiev said it picked up the deserters because they defected to Russia from the Ukrainian military following Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Russia called the arrest "another act of gross provocation," Reuters reported Tuesday. The Russian defense ministry said the soldiers were "illegally detained" Sunday in the former Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014. The soldiers, Ensign Maxim Evgenyevich Odintsov and Junior Sergeant Alexander Vyacheslavovich Baranov, were transported to Ukraine's Mykolaiv region, north-west of the peninsula, BBC News reported. Russia claimed Ukraine would use "psychological and physical pressure" to get confessions from the soldiers "for crimes allegedly committed against Ukraine."
Ukraine has declared martial law in part of the country after Sunday's capture of three of its naval vessels and 23 crew members by Russia. Lawmakers backed President Petro Poroshenko's request to introduce it in regions mostly bordering Russia for 30 days starting from 28 November. The authorities can now restrict public rallies and regulate the media. Some MPs expressed fears Mr Poroshenko could suspend a presidential poll on 31 March 2019 - a claim he firmly denied. Sunday's naval clash was off the coast of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.
MOSCOW/KIEV - Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree offering passports to people in breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, triggering calls for more sanctions against Moscow from the incoming leadership in Kiev. "This is yet more proof of Russia's real role as an aggressor state that's waging a war against Ukraine," President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office said on Facebook after the order was posted on the Kremlin website Wednesday. Ukraine "is counting on increasing diplomatic and sanction pressure" by the international community against Russia. The Kremlin leader's citizenship offer comes three days after Zelenskiy, a comic, won a landslide in Sunday's Ukrainian presidential election. Putin has yet to respond publicly to his victory, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday downplayed the possibility of the two leaders working together.
MOSCOW – Russia and Ukraine have exchanged four prisoners in a move coordinated by their governments. The swap follows last month's release of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko after two years in a Russian prison. Savchenko was swapped for two Russians convicted of fighting in eastern Ukraine. In Tuesday's exchange, Russia's President Vladimir Putin pardoned Gennady Afanasyev, who was convicted on charges of sabotage, and Yuri Soloshenko, convicted on espionage charges. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed them in Kiev after their return.