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EXCLUSIVE: Radio Chatter Reveals Russian Navy Bungle brought it to the Brink of War with Ukraine

Byline Investigations photo
Byline InvestigationsLondon
 EXCLUSIVE: Radio Chatter Reveals Russian Navy Bungle brought it to the Brink of War with Ukraine
Extraordinary military transmissions heard by Byline suggest three Ukrainian vessels were seized by the Russian Navy in retaliation for a crash between two of their gunboats during a botched maritime interception attempt.

By Greg Miskiw

RUSSIAN Naval chiefs took Crimea to the brink of war in a fit of pique over an embarrassing maritime collision between two of its gunboats, recordings of military radio transmissions have suggested.

The recordings, heard by Byline, capture chatter between senior Russian Naval officers and the commander of one gunboat, the Don, after it hit a second, the Emerald, during a bungled interception attempt of the Ukrainian tugboat Yana-Kapu.

The heavily-armed Russian vessels were chasing the more nimble Yana-Kapu as her crew attempted to escape on November 25, but as they zig-zagged in the Kerch Straits the Don collided with the Emerald holing her port side beneath the bridge.

Her crew hurriedly draped a white sheet over the gaping hole, measuring at least a square metre, in a clumsy attempted cover-up, before turning fire on and seizing three Ukrainian vessels in a bid to save face, sparking the crisis.

The recordings are emerging as scandal-dogged US President Donald Trump tonight called off a G20 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing outrage over the boat crisis.  

THE RECORDINGS

“We should assault them, we have to destroy them. Fuck! Medvedev (believed to be Russia's deputy Border Service commander, head of the Coast Guard Gennady Medvedev) is in a panic, shouting. It seems the President is controlling all that shit.”  

In one recording, an officer can be heard discussing his orders to react with a show of strength, rather than give quarter in the highly contentious waters between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

He said: 

“We should assault them, we have to destroy them. Fuck! Medvedev (believed to be Russia's deputy Border Service commander, head of the Coast Guard Gennady Medvedev) is in a panic, shouting. It seems the President is controlling all that shit.”

The transmissions are between Russian Border Forces officers and the commander of the gunboat Don. A Captain Basov, from its operations group, can also be heard.

It begins: "This is LTC Sharapov.

"Now I pass the radio to the commander, this is guard ship, Don.

"Shatokhin, yes, Michalych.

"So I push (ram) him a second time. I tore its boards a little. Then they began to manoeuvre quickly.

"Mykhalych. That was the order from border services. To kick them, to ram them, to destroy everything.

"This is Operations Group Captain Basov, Kerch. Moscow clarifies. Do you know who committed that attack?"

Reply:"Commander of the Don guardship."

The officer is then asked to give coordinates and the conversation from the gunboat continues:

Officer on the Don: "We can all together, four or us to attack one.

"I'm trying but he's manoeuvring. When I approach him he moves away, turns away."

Reply: "Fuck, lets hit him into the propeller-rudder to destroy at least something."

Reply from on board Don:"I have tried but he doesn't let me come close."

Reply: "Are you trying to flush him with your water gun?”

"No, it doesn't work."

THE COLLISION

The conversation between the Border Forces and the gunboat commander then reveals that the Don has also collided with another Russian navy vessel. 

Officer on the Don: "We have had a serious collision with Izumrud (Russian for Emerald).

Reply: "Between our guard ships?"

Officer on the Don: "Yes."

"We will be in all reports. So who can guarantee that I won't be fired?"

Reply: "Mykhalych, look 10 guys are coming with incredible physical skills. They will come in about 50 minutes, maybe in an hour.

"Could we take them on board from Zavetnoe or somewhere else."

Officer on the Don: "No, it's too shallow there."

The conversation goes on: "Sharapov, what orders have you got right now or previously."

Reply: "Shein called me, but I would like to clarify to block them, he said. At least to block the tug boat. I am thinking how to block them, from the North or the South. Is he allowed to leave territorial waters."

Reply:"Block the leaving routes."

Reply: "Block the leaving routes. Wow! Then we will speed up and reach him. They are moving at speed of seven Knots. WE are approaching them."

OPENING FIRE

Later the Border commander officers praisse the captain of the Don for his appearance on TV.

"Mykhalych, you were great, you have a great video and your emotions were so unartificial(natural). They showed it on TV."

Officer on the Don: "Come on!"

Reply: "I'm serious."

Officer on the Don: "You didn't see our damage? Shit!

"I am taking care. The tug boat has stopped but the people there have machine guns."

Reply: "Right. Understood so far."

Capt. Bosov:"Who did open fire? The Izumrud (Emerald) Right?

I can't reach Izumrud. They are in a mess in their radio communications. Screaming, the Ukrainians are sinking, or what is happening.

"Did he shoot them? Holy crap!

Reply: "Yes, hello.  One second...."

And there the tape ended. 

FARCE TO TRAGEDY

“These two Russian vessels, bristling with guns, chasing the little tug. Rather than admit it was a cock up – or any sign of weakness - Putin would rather it be seen as an act of criminality just to save face.”  

The naval comedy of errors has serious implications.

The details emerged as Ukraine today entered a state of martial law, imposed by president Petro Poroshenko while his country shifts onto a war footing.

Regional political sources say the escalation in recent days shows how even a minor incident can explode under the tension felt since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

One senior analyst of Ukrainian-Russian relationships told Byline: “It was like something out of the Keystone Cops rather than an act of war.

“These two Russian vessels, bristling with guns, chasing the little tug. Rather than admit it was a cock up – or any sign of weakness - Putin would rather it be seen as an act of criminality just to save face.”

Ukraine has already asked NATO to send vessels to monitor the Kerch Straits in the Sea of Azov.

Britain, France, and Germany, among others, have condemned the Russians who signed a 2003 bilateral agreement that the Sea of Azov is shared with Ukraine affording equal access.

The deliberate ramming of the tug-boat Yani-Kapu is also a serious violation of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea Section 2 Rights of Passage. Meanwhile, after being fired upon by the Russian Navy three Ukrainian sailors were seriously injured; others had minor injuries. A total of 23 were taken into custody on Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, and one is expected to appear in court.

A month earlier two Ukrainian vessels dodged the Russians at the Kerch Straits and made it through to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

After the latest confrontation, the Russians have moored a huge cargo vessel across the Straits blockading the posts of Mariupol and Berdyansk.

Their actions have prompted Poroshenko to declare martial law for 30 days in regions bordering Russia.

#Ukraine, #Russia, #Yana Kapu, #Nikopol, #Berdyansk

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