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Naval combat: Ukraine vs Russia in the Sea of Azov

Naval combat: Ukraine vs Russia in the Sea of Azov

The situation sharpened when the Kerch Strait bridge was built. Then the the State Border Service of Russia started stopping and searching the ships heading to Berdiansk and Mariupol. The likely reason is the fact that Ukraine detained Russian vessel “NORD” by reason of the breach of entry regime of occupied Crimea.

Entry-exit check at Kerch Strait takes about 2 hours. However standing in the cue to be checked usually takes from 1 up to 10 days.

Aleksandr Oleynik, director of the state owned enterprise “Mariupol sea trade port”: "Just for you to understand, the approximate cost of standing in a cue for such 20 ton vessel is 15 thousand USD per day. One week will be 100 thousand USD. Someone must pay this price".

The port already lost major contracts with the South-East Asia and the USA because of the height of Kerch Strait bridge. As a result not every vessel can get to Mariupol.

Oleynik explains: "This is substantial for us. When converting into money equivalent this will be about  250-300 mln UAH annually".

The port hopes for the peaceful settlement of this situation.

"We don`t consider military means, taking into account all the implications. Diplomacy and sanctions will do" - told Alexandr Oleynik.

"Russia is not likely to resort to diplomacy. The Kremlin strengthens military presence  in the Sea of Azov with its new warships. The present Azov fleet constitute 120 warships and motor boats.  Among them only 24 bear the sufficient weapons" - explained Glenn Grant, British military expert.

Grant extended: "Indeed, you are on the brink of war in the Sea of Azov.  If Russia sees the opportunity to get something they will use it… How do I know it? - Look at their actions:  military trainings, huge spendings, military budget increase, by taking funds from education, social and healthcare sectors. I`m sure you won`t do that only if your intentions are serious".

In response Ukraine got more active in the international arena.

On 25 October the European Parliament adopted the resolution pointing at the violations made by Russia. The situation in Azov sea was discussed at the extraordinary session of the UN.

However Ukraine`s actions were not limited to diplomatic moves. Ukraine announced the establishment of the new naval base:

Igor Voronchenko, Admiral, Naval Forces commander-in-chief commented: "We will further build up our presence in the Sea of Azov. You will see our further steps later on. Currently I cannot comment on that".

Presently in order to enhance its presence in the Azov Sea Kyiv directed two warships of the supportive fleet. Yevgeniy Marchuk, the representative of Ukraine in the security subgroup at Minsk negotiations  is sceptic about military efforts by Kyiv.

According to Marchuk the naval base in the Sea of Azov should have been established 3 years ago. As for the necessity of the severance of bilateral relations between Kyiv and Moscow I am not sure. 

Ukraine decided not to prolong the validity of the big treaty on friendship and cooperation with Russia. The future of the separate treaty on the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait is doubtful.

Yevgeniy Marchuk, Representative of Ukraine in the security subgroup at Minsk negotiations: There is a clear will in the public opinion in Ukraine almost all treaties with Russia. From one side considering the patriotic feeling this seem right. But if we terminate the treaties on the Sea of Azov including those governing the border, what should we do next?

The is no definitive answer from Ukrainian MPs.  

Anna Hopko, member of Parliament, the Head of Committee on international relations: According to the latest decision of the National Council on Security & Defence criticas is the instruction by the MFA to give explanations to the Council as for the reasons of denouncement of this treaty, how this step will defend our national interests.  

If Ukraine decides to terminate the treaty, Russia`s reaction is difficult to anticipate. At this point the press-secretary of Putin Dmitriy Peskov announced that there is no position by the Kremlin on the possibility of alteration of the conditions of the treaty. The Ukrainian MFA deem that the termination of the treaty may lead to the new territorial dispute over the border at the Sea of Azov.  

Elena Zerkal, Deputy Minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine commented: We can get new territorial dispute with Russia as for the delimitation of the Sea of Azov.

Deputy Minister of temporary occupied territories and IDPs of Ukraine Georgiy Tuka announced that, the termination of the treary will de facto make the Kerch Strait solely Russian.

"How should we ensure shipping traffic? Using the Navy? The one that we don`t have".

If Ukraine will terminate the treaty it is not clear how this will affect the claims in the international court of Justice of the UN on naval law, where Kyiv currently filed a claim against Russia. The MFA told, the the claim will be considered in summer  2019. However the Kremlin already filed a claim against the jurisdiction of the court.

Yevgeniy Marchuk noted: The Court responded, that in relation to the objection filed by Russia to the fact that Ukrainian claim is being considered by the court, according to the the charter of the court it shall consider the objection first. 


In response the MFA of Ukraine communicated: According to the decree by the Court Ukraine has to file to the UN its written proposition as ti the previous objections made by Russia by 14 January 2019. After that the court will hold hearings of this case and then make its decision.

Ukraine`s actions military as well as diplomatic has not yet brought a tangible effect. The Ministry of infrastructure keeps on counting losses. The government hopes that aggression in the Sea of Azov may lead to new sanctions and enhancement of military assistance to Ukraine.
 

 

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