Ukraine Closes Its Borders To Russian Military-Aged Men, Fearing Another Invasion

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Ukraine has closed its border to military-aged men from Russia, fearing that the recent attack on a military ship could give way to another invasion from its neighbor to the east.

As the Guardian reported, Ukraine took action in blocking Russian men between the ages of 16 and 60 from entering the country, amid fears that Russia could form “private” armies inside of its borders. The two countries have been in conflict since 2014, when Russian soldiers crossed into Crimea as Russia annexed the region.

Russia’s recent attack on Ukrainian naval ships have brought tensions to new heights.

Russian border guards had opened fire on three Ukrainian vessels, taking them captive — along with 24 crew members on board. Ukraine has demanded the return of the sailors, and instituted martial law in 10 regions along the border, in fear that Russia could launch a land invasion. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of putting in place an “economic blockade” by keeping ships from traveling through a narrow strait connecting the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea.

Poroshenko has laid blame directly at the feet of Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian president has plans to annex the entire country of Ukraine.

“Putin wants the old Russian empire back,” Poroshenko said, via Reuters. “Crimea, Donbass, the whole country. As Russian tsar, as he sees himself, his empire cannot function without Ukraine. He sees us as his colony.”

Though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Poroshenko has asked for help from Russia’s aggression. NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu noted that other NATO members in the Black Sea — Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey — already have a presence in the region.

Russia’s aggression has even earned a rare rebuke from Donald Trump, who canceled a planned private meeting with Vladimir Putin that was supposed to take place at the G-20 Summit this weekend in Argentina.

Russia is still facing international sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine in 2014, which led to Russia annexing the Crimea region. Before that invasion, residents in that region reported in increase in unidentified military members, which were later identified as Russian military personnel who had been quietly assembling after crossing the border.

As the Guardian reported, the new travel measure will affect hundreds of thousands of people who cross the borders between Ukraine and Russia. There are a handful of exceptions — including those traveling to Ukraine for funerals — but some reports indicate that the border restrictions are being extended to women as well.