Ottawa (AFP) - G7 nations on Friday called Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian ships off Moscow-annexed Crimea unjustified and demanded the release of the 24 sailors, saying the standoff had "dangerously raised tensions."
The foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US, as well as the EU's high representative called on Russia "to release the detained crew and vessels and refrain from impeding lawful passage through the Kerch Strait."
In a joint statement issued by Canada, which currently holds the rotating G7 presidency, they expressed their "utmost concern" and warned that the incident has "dangerously raised tensions" in the region.
"There is no justification for Russia's use of military force against Ukrainian ships and naval personnel," it read.
Ukraine put its forces on alert and imposed martial law in its border regions after the sea confrontation last Sunday, which was the first open military confrontation between Kiev and Moscow since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.
That year saw the start of an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
According to their lawyer, Russia has transferred the Ukrainian sailors -- sentenced to two months of detention -- from Crimea to Moscow.
The Group of Seven industrialized nations urged "restraint, due respect for international law, and the prevention of any further escalation."
At the same time, the group reiterated that it "does not, and will never, recognize Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula" while reaffirming its "unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."