U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has joined a global outcry against Russia for its recent military actions against Ukraine in the waters near a disputed region of Eastern Europe.
Russian ships fired on and seized Ukrainian vessels Sunday near the Crimean peninsula.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, leads a U.S. Senate subcommittee on foreign relations. His Monday statement, issued jointly with the committee's lead Democrat, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connectict, calls on Russia to "swiftly release all Ukrainian crew members and vessels" and cease disrupting Ukrainian sea vessels in the Kerch Strait, where the incident occurred, and in the adjacent Sea of Azov.
"Russia cannot rewrite international rules by force," Johnson and Murphy said.
The statement mirrors comment by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who publicly accused Russia on Monday of taking “outlaw actions” against Ukrainian ships in the incident.
But President Donald Trump, speaking Monday afternoon, struck a different note in appearing to find equal fault with both countries. Trump told reporters "we do not like what's happening either way" in the dispute.
Russian officials claim its actions came in response to a Ukrainian incursion on its borders; Ukrainian leaders say the Russians are lying and the Russian move was an act of aggression that violates international law.
The dispute raises the prospect of a larger military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, which have sparred over Crimea since Russia annexed it from Ukraine in 2014.
The Kerch Strait links the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea off the eastern edge of the Crimean Peninsula. In March, Ukraine detained a fishing vessel sailing from Crimea, and Russia increased its military presence in the area, inspecting all vessels sailing to or from Ukrainian ports, disrupting trade.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.