Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 29.11.2018
Four and three quarter years after the Russian Federation began its invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s War is now undisguised. Fighting under the Russian flag, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation coast guard vessels attacked the Ukrainian Navy in international waters of the Black Sea on November 25. Since this purposeful and unprovoked attack, there has been no meaningful response from any Western democracy other than Ukraine (which put itself on a war footing in anticipation of the Russian offensive which is to come). With nothing but empty words and no action from supposed friends of Ukraine, Putin is confidently expanding his war of imperialist aggression against Ukraine. Putin’s War on the West is quickly getting bigger.
Seeing that the West is doing nothing to guarantee free passage of ships through the Kerch Strait, the Russians are now blockading Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov. “Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov – Mariupol and Berdiansk – are effectively under blockade by the Russian Federation. Vessels are being barred from leaving and entering,” said Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister, Volodymyr Omelyan.
The Russian Federation has imposed a maritime blockade on Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov. This is a gross violation of international maritime law and it is an act of war.
Seeing that the West is doing nothing to obtain the release of 23 Ukrainian prisoners of war captured on November 25, the Russians are now charging them with criminal offences under illegitimate Russian Federation laws applied in temporarily-occupied Ukrainian Crimea. The Russian Federation paraded some of the POWs on television to recite scripted and forced ‘confessions’ to so-called crimes.
In accordance with the Geneva Convention of 1949, Ukrainian Navy sailors seized by the Russians are prisoners of war. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been called upon to intercede. The Geneva Convention says that POWs cannot be prosecuted for taking a direct part in hostilities. The Russians have broken this provision by charging all 23 Ukrainian POWs with so-called ‘crimes.’ POWs are protected against intimidation, insults, and public curiosity. The Russians have broken this provision by putting some Ukrainian Navy sailors on TV to read forced ‘confessions.’ The Russian Federation is now in breach of the Geneva Convention and is committing war crimes.
Seeing that the West is doing nothing to act as an honest guarantor of the Minsk Agreement of 11 February 2015, the Russian Federation is continuing to violate the ceasefire and use prohibited heavy artillery every single day. Russia’s war against Ukraine in Donbas is trench warfare that has lasted longer than the First World War. The Russian Federation conducted fake ‘elections’ in temporarily Russian-occupied areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions on November 11. This violated Article 4 of the Minsk Agreement, but no Western country has imposed any sanctions on the organizers of the bogus vote. The Russian Federation denies full access to the international Ukraine-Russian Federation border to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, and prevents full observation by the teams of monitors. The OSCE imposes no punishment on the Russian Federation, and even allows Russian agents to ‘monitor’ their own invasion as members on the mission – something the OSCE denies to Ukrainians. The Russian Federation has torn the Minsk Agreement to shreds with no ill consequences and with no action taken by the guarantor nations, Germany and France.
The only Western democracy that is doing anything in response to expanded Russian imperialist aggression is Ukraine. Ukraine has brought to a “war state” 10 regions of the country that border the Russian Federation, the Black or Azov Seas, or territory illegally occupied by the the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (the left bank of the Dniester River in Moldova, the peninsula of Crimea in Ukraine, and part of Donbas in Ukraine). No other Western democracy is taking any effective action to stop Putin.
Seeing that the West is doing nothing after the Battle of the Kerch Strait, Putin is encouraged to expand his war against Ukraine. Ukrainian military intelligence assesses that the Russian Federation has considerable armed forces capable of an assault on 96 hours notice. The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has given his opinion that Putin may time his renewed invasion to coincide with the granting of a tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The international community has failed to ensure that Ukrainian military members seized in a time of active hostilities are treated as prisoners of war. The international community has failed to ensure access to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov and freedom of transit through the Kerch Strait. With no support for international law, the rules-based international order has collapsed in the face of Putin’s War.
Western appeasement of Russian aggression and failure to support Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity all but guarantees that the Russian Federation will launch a major offensive against Ukraine soon. Putin wasn’t stopped after Crimea, he wasn’t stopped in Donbas, he wasn’t stopped after shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, he wasn’t stopped after launching a nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom, and he isn’t being stopped after the Battle of the Kerch Strait. For all these reasons, Putin will attack. He will never stop until he is stopped.
Volodymyr Omelyan, Minister for infrastructure of Ukraine, wrote yesterday in Facebook:
As of this evening, on November 28th 2018, the Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov - Berdiansk and Mariupol - are effectively under blockade by the Russian Federation. Vessels are being barred from leaving and entering.
Currently, 18 vessels are awaiting entry into the Sea of Azov - 4 to Berdiansk and 14 to Mariupol.
There is also a line to leave the Sea of Azov and to enter the Black Sea: 3 vessels are currently unable to leave the Port of Berdiansk and 6 are unable to leave the Port of Mariupol.
8 other vessels are standing by near the port berths.
Overall, 35 vessels have been prevented from carrying out normal operations.
Only vessels moving towards Russian ports on the Sea of Azov are permitted entry.
In essence, Russia has blocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov.
The actions of the Russians are clearly aimed at escalating the crisis in the Azov sea and to destabilize the region.
The goal is simple - by placing a blockade on Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, Russia hopes to drive Ukraine out of our own territory - territory that is ours in accordance will all relevant international laws.