Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 26.11.2018
In a purposeful and unprovoked attack, Russian warships rammed and opened fire on Ukrainian navy vessels in the Kerch Strait. The Ukrainian ships were en route from Odesa to Mariupol, and were exercising their right of passage as guaranteed under a 2003 treaty on the joint Russian Federation-Ukraine use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. Without warning, Russian Federation forces rammed a Ukrainian naval tug, opened fire, wounded six Ukrainian sailors, and captured three Ukrainian ships. Almost five years after Putin began his mad invasion of Ukraine in Crimea, the Russian Federation is now engaged in open naval warfare against Ukraine.
The Russian Federation’s attack on the Ukrainian Navy is a clear act of aggression. It is a violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is a breach of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances which guarantees the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. It breaks the Agreement Between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.
Not that it makes any practical difference, but the Russian Federation did not disguise its aggression as the act of “little green men” or of “pro-Russian separatists.” Those are names that have been given by Kremlin propagandists to Armed Forces of the Russian Federation service members who remove their insignia when they invade Ukraine. The Battle of the Kerch Strait on November 25 was pure, naked, unjustified and vicious aggression by the the Russian Federation against Ukraine.
The Russian Federation has pirated the Ukrainian ships and taken them to illegally-occupied Kerch, Crimea, Ukraine. 23 Ukrainian Navy sailors were on board the ships. They have not been heard from since the Russian attack.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine are on combat alert and all ships of the Ukrainian Navy are said to have put to sea from Odesa. The National Security Council of Ukraine has recommended the imposition of martial law for 60 days. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called an emergency meeting of the Verkhovna Rada for November 26.
Western democracies have failed to meet their obligations to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Declaring martial law is a tool that the Ukrainian state has in 2018 that it did not have when it was in a much weaker condition at the onset of the Russian Federation’s invasion in 2014. Martial law in its present form in Ukrainian law is an instrument conceived with the creation of the Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and with the declaration that the Russian Federation is an aggressor state. Martial law is the right tool at the right time for Ukraine that is in a state of war with the Russian Federation but isn’t allowed to say so.
Ukraine is the only fighting defender of the West against Russian aggression. President Poroshenko took the lead in calling for a united, global coalition to stop Putin at war. On November 25th, President Poroshenko wrote on Twitter: “We appeal to the partner countries under the Budapest Memorandum, to the EU countries, to participants of the Normandy format in order to coordinate effective measures to protect Ukraine. We appeal to the whole pro-Ukrainian coalition: we must stand united!” He correctly points out that the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France have a special obligation to protect Ukraine.
The Russian Federation began its war against Ukraine on 20 February 2014. The attack by Russian forces on the Ukrainian Navy on 25 November 2018 happened because Western democracies have failed to form a pro-Ukraine coalition to stop Putin and to save peace in Europe. Every civilized nation must now come to the aid of Ukraine. It is not too late. Stronger and more effective measures must be taken, such as a complete economic embargo of the Russian Federation. But above all, Ukrainians must no longer be asked to fight for themselves, for Europe, and for the West alone. We must stand united.