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 filed a lawsuit at the UN's top court accusing Russia of sponsoring "terrorism" and illicitly funding separatist rebel groups - charges Russia denies. Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, and fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine the following month between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces, a conflict in which close to 10,000 people have been killed. In the case announced on Tuesday by the International Court of Justice, Ukraine accused Russia of "intervening militarily in Ukraine, financing acts of terrorism and violating the human rights of millions of Ukraine's citizens". Ukraine further alleged that the takeover of Crimea "brazenly defied the UN Charter, seizing a part of Ukraine's sovereign territory by military force". Russia has repeatedly denied sending troops or military equipment to eastern Ukraine.
Trump faces trial in the Senate after the House impeached him, arguing he abused his office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Biden while withholding military aid; Chief Congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel reports. Democrats' claim that the Trump administration broke America's promise to protect Ukraine from Russia by withholding military aid is just an example of the party's hypocrisy, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, claimed Thursday. "The Democratic House Managers' hypocrisy is on full display," Ernst wrote on Twitter on Thursday evening, after Day 3 of Trump's Senate impeachment trial. "They've spent most of their time lecturing the Senate on aid to Ukraine, yet four of them voted AGAINST legislation that provided the very same aid they're lecturing us on." "What I find very interesting now is that the House Managers are very, very centered on the fact that Russia was invading Ukraine. And military funding to Ukraine," she said during a break from President Trump's impeachment trial earlier Thursday, reminding reporters that Crimea was invaded in 2014 during the Obama administration.