Denmark warns Russia over captured Ukrainian sailors

Anders Samuelsen ready to lead the push for new EU sanctions

The foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, has warned Russia that new EU sanctions could be on the horizon if the country doesn’t free the 24 Ukrainian sailors detained since late November following a drama in the Kerch Strait.

Samuelsen is visiting the Ukrainian harbour city of Mariupol over the next two days along with his Ukrainian and Czech counterparts, Pavlo Klimkin and Tomáš Petříček.

“Russia firing upon and hijacking Ukrainian navy vessels in the Sea of Azov was a completely unacceptable action. That Russia continues to keep 24 innocent sailors as hostages just proves their complete contempt of international law,” said Samuelsen.

“If the international arena fails to react – and resolutely at that – we confirm to Russia that they can act as they please in their local areas. I think the EU must react to Russia’s aggressive behaviour, and if they won’t release the sailors, I will lead the push for new EU sanctions.”

READ MORE: Denmark backs Ukraine in Crimea drama

Reforms and naval support
On Thursday, Samuelsen will meet with his EU colleagues in Bucharest, and Ukraine is on the agenda at an upcoming EU foreign minister meeting on February 18 where the issue will be broached by the Danish foreign minister. New sanctions against Russia would require a unanimous EU.

Meanwhile, while in Mariupol, Samuelsen plans to reveal a number of Danish initiatives that aim to assist Ukraine tackling Russian aggression – including dispatching a Danish naval officer to help boost the Ukrainian Navy.

Denmark will also continue to push for further reforms in the country and in its forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections