Ukraine has banned Russian men aged 16-60 years from entering the country amid Kiev’s growing fears that Moscow is planning a full-scale invasion of the former Soviet republic.
Tensions between the neighbouring countries have escalated after Russian forces opened fire on and captured Ukrainian navy vessels and sailors off the disputed peninsula of Crimea.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko explained the ban, claiming it was necessary to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from mobilising “private armies” on Ukrainian soil.
He claims men who are posing as civilians to cross the border and join the “armies” are actually members of Russia’s armed forces.
Mr Poroshenko tweeted: “Ukraine has introduced restrictions on the entry of Russian citizens from the age of 16 to 60, so that Russia does not form in Ukraine units of ‘private’ armies, which in reality are representatives of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
The head of Ukraine’s border service, Petro Tsygykal, said: “Today, the entry of foreigners is limited – primarily citizens of the Russian Federation – non-admission of citizens of the Russian Federation aged from 16 to 60, male.”
Ukraine imposed martial law this week, citing fears that Russia was planning a full-scale invasion after Russian vessels fired on and captured Ukrainian ships and sailors last weekend.
The crisis will be discussed at a G20 summit of major economies in Argentina.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has made clear that further sanctions against Russia have not been ruled out.
She said on Thursday: “Our message to Russia is very clear. They should release the ships and sailors and de-escalate the situation.
“If you look at what we have seen over the last year of so, this is part of a pattern of Russian behaviour.
“We have always been at the forefront in Europe of asking for sanctions on Russia in relation to its behaviour. We will continue to push for what we consider to be appropriate sanctions on Russia.”
Mrs May added: “Russia could take a different approach. Russia could support the rules-based international system. If it did that, its position would be a different one. It is choosing to continue with this pattern of behaviour.”
US President Donald Trump has cancelled his meeting with Putin following last weekend’s incident in the Black Sea and his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s admission that he lied to Congress about a proposed Trump Organization skyscraper in Moscow.