Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 23.08.2018
Russia has imposed a complete maritime blockade on the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Using its illegal occupation of Ukraine’s territory of Crimea, the Russians have closed the international Kerch Strait to all Ukraine-bound ships. This is an overt act of war by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. It is also an attack on freedom of navigation in international waters and therefore an attack by Russia on the whole world.
For months, Russia had been illegally detaining Ukraine-bound vessels in the Sea of Azov in order to cause delays and business losses to shippers. But starting at 7 in the morning on August 14, Russia has not allowed a single vessel to transit the Kerch Strait if it was bound for Berdyansk or Mariupol. Russia allows all vessels bound for Russian ports on the Sea of Azov to pass through. The closing of the Kerch Strait is a selective, anti-Ukraine blockade.
The purpose of Russia’s blockade of the Ukrainian Sea of Azov littoral is to transform the Sea of Azov exclusively into an inland sea of the Russian Federation. It is an act of war against Ukraine. The Russians hope to force the Ukrainians into an act of self-defence which Kremlin information warriors will spin to an ignorant Western press as a ‘provocation’ by Ukraine against Russia.
The ultimate objective of Russia’s war against Ukraine is the annihilation of Ukraine as a free and independent nation. The short-term objective of Putin’s War is to cut-off Ukraine from the Black Sea. Russia invaded Ukraine in Crimea on 20 February 2014. Subsequently, Russia seized all off-shore oil and gas platforms, including two that were operated by Ukraine in international waters of the Black Sea. Russia has now captured the Sea of Azov. Under the guise of military ‘exercises’ Russia has closed sea and air traffic off the Black Sea coast of Odesa.
Russia’s expanded military offensive, when it comes, will be a combined arms assault on the Sea of Azov littoral. The goal of Putin’s invaders will be to create a ‘land bridge’ to Crimea. Muscovy will thereafter be able to attack Odesa from Crimea, from the mouth of the Dnipro River, and from Russian-occupied Moldova (so-called ‘Transnistria’).
Friends and partners of Ukraine are doing nothing about Russia’s blockade of Berdyansk and Mariupol and capture of the Sea of Azov. If the international political system were sane, then Russia committing so many acts of war against Ukraine would lead to the formal declaration that a state of war exists between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. But since 1991, when Muscovy was allowed to call itself the “Russian Federation” and usurp the United Nations Security Council Seat that belonged only to the Soviet Union, the international political system has been dysfunctional to the point of insanity. This has allowed Muscovy to wage escalating war against Ukraine for four and a half years with no declaration of war and no adequate response by the international community to restore world peace.
Against all the rules of international maritime law, Russia is blockading Ukrainian ports. This is an act of war. Putin’s War against Ukraine has always been an international war. It is the greatest threat to peace and security in Europe since the Second World War. A sane and rules-based international order would declare the truth of events, and declare war against Russia.