Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation treads carefully in Ukraine-Russia sea spat

Russian President Vladimir Putin left greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting at the G20 summit Modal Trigger Russian President Vladimir Putin left greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting at the G20 summit. AP
| 05 December, 2018, 02:55

Russian Federation has perpetrated acts of war against Ukraine in the Kerch Strait and the adjacent portion of the Black Sea on November 25 (see EDM, November 26, 28, 29).

The Kremlin said Mr Poroshenko's latest announcement is an "absurd" attempt to inflame tensions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the Azov Sea standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina.

Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian navy vessels in the Black Sea near the Russia-occupied Crimea on November 25.

"After Poroshenko said that Russian Federation is allegedly planning to seize Mariupol and Berdyansk, I can say, putting his own pronouncements in other words, that it is Russian Federation that protects Europe from barbarism, tyranny, terrorism, aggression and militarism looming large over our continent", she wrote on her Facebook account.

Ukraine says Russia has imposed a de facto blockade on its Sea of Azov ports by only allowing Russian ships through the Kerch Strait.

Mariupol and Berdyansk were "partially unblocked", said Volodymyr Omelyan.

November 25, the border service of the Federal Security Service of Russia detained three Ukrainian warships, which, without warning, violated the sea border and made unsafe maneuvers in Russian waters.


It has also seized a number of maritime gas fields in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea belonging to Ukraine and has reportedly extracted an estimated 7.2 billion cubic metres of gas from those fields. "Also, we talked about the possibility of banning Russian vessels from civilized countries' ports", the Ukrainian top diplomat stated.

The incident was the biggest escalation in the conflict between the two former Soviet states since Russian Federation seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko responded by introducing martial law for 30 days in the country's border areas and barring all Russian males aged 16 to 60 from entering the country, a move he said was needed to prevent Russia from assembling destabilizing forces in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian border service said Saturday that around 100 Russian citizens had been denied entry since the border restrictions went into effect Friday.

Poroshenko said on Monday that some reservists will be summoned for training as part of martial law. According to a Ukrainian official, Russians have reversed the closure of the Kerch Strait, more than a week after opening fire on three Ukrainian ships and taking dozens of sailors hostage.

Commercial ships and warships under either the Russian flag or the Ukrainian flag shall enjoy freedom of movement in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have helped modernise Ukraine's armed forces and boosted their presence in the Black Sea over the a year ago, with more ships deployed in the region and more air policing.

The Kremlin has called the naval incident a provocation meant to shore up Poroshenko's sagging popularity.

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