Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.10.2018
The European Union is poised to impose more sanctions on the Russian Federation. At war with Ukraine and still invading Crimea and Donbas after four and a half years, the Russians richly deserve them. New punitive measures are needed because Russian aggression has now taken the form of a dramatic militarization of the Sea of Azov.
The European Parliament passed a resolution, “On the Situation in the Sea of Azov,” on October 24 – United Nations Day. The key provision is a call to the European Council “to make it clear that the targeted sanctions against Russia will be reinforced if the conflict in the Azov Sea escalates further.”
Muscovy is rapidly militarizing the Sea of Azov and its coasts, and escalating to an expanded war on this front. The Russian Federation controls part of the Sea of Azov coast in invaded and occupied Donetsk region, Ukraine – from the Ukrainian border village of Kholodne to a point east of Shyrokyne. The Muscovites control the Russian Federation coastline. They control the Kerch Strait, after illegally constructing a bridge from Krasnodar Krai, Russian Federation to Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied). And the Russian Federation controls the Sea of Azov coast of illegally-occupied Crimea, Ukraine.
On the Sea of Azov itself, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have build up a considerable armada. Material prepared by Ukrainian military intelligence for Western allies reveals that the Russians have deployed 56 vessels to the Sea of Azov, including warships from the Black Sea Fleet and from the Caspian Flotilla. The invaders of Ukraine from Muscovy have all the elements in place for an amphibious assault against Ukrainian defenders on the Sea of Azov coast in Donetsk region, Zaporizhia region and Kherson region.
The European Council has already sanctioned six Russian entities over the illegal construction of the Kerch bridge. The European Parliament resolution says that more sanctions may be needed over this outrageous act by the Putin regime: “The construction of the Kerch Bridge and a gas pipeline and the laying of underwater cables to the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula without Ukraine’s consent constitute another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by the Russian Federation.”
The Russian Federation has built an illegal bridge over the Kerch Strait, is restricting the flow of maritime traffic, is militarizing the Sea of Azov, and is boarding and delaying ships bound for Ukrainian ports. This is a de facto blockade, and it is causing damage to the Ukrainian economy – which is of course the Putin regime’s evil intent.
Ukrainian ports, notably Berdyansk and Mariupol, have sustained more than 35 million dollars in losses because of the Russian Federation’s effective maritime blockade. Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure, Volodymr Omelyan, noted the damage: “The Mariupol port was forced to switch to a four-day working week. We see permanent halts of Ukrainian and foreign ships in the Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait up to the point that shipowners suffer losses due to ships’ downtime: about $15,000-50,000 per day. The average halt time [of ships] reaches more than 30 hours. Not only Ukrainian, but also European taxpayers sustain losses since the products from these ports go to European markets.”
The European Parliament resolution notes that Russians should be sanctioned because of the maritime blockade of Ukrainian ports: “Russia frequently and in an abusive manner blocks and inspects ships going through the Kerch Strait sailing to or from Ukrainian ports … excessive actions of the Russian Federation in the Sea of Azov … breach international maritime law and Russia’s own international commitments.”
Further sanctions need to be imposed on Russian individuals and entities for reasons not laid out the European Parliament resolution, “On the Situation in the Sea of Azov.” Russia’s war against Ukraine is expanding on many fronts. The Russian occupation regime in Donbas plans to hold illegal ‘elections’ for the fake ‘republics’: the so-called “DPR” and “LPR.” Scheduled for November 11war, if these ‘elections’ are held they would be a direct violation of Article 4 of the Minsk Agreement of 11 February 2015. Anyone and anything involved in this travesty of sham democracy should be sanctioned – not just by the EU but the United States and by Canada and by Japan and by every other civilized Western nation.
Russians should be sanctioned because they are stoking the war against Ukraine in Donbas. On October 25, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation sent the 82nd resupply convoy to its invasion army. As always, the Russians thinly disguised the trucks carrying war matériel as a ‘humanitarian convoy’ but they allowed no inspection of its contents. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has spotted night-time convoys moving war matériel to and from a Russian supply depot at Russkoye, Rostov region, Russian Federation. The OSCE SMM has spotted five convoys since August, but the Russians have been resupplying their invasion-occupation forces via this particular route since August 2014. The Russians also used captured rail lines to resupply their troops. The Russian Federation keeps the war in Donbas going with an unlimited supply of weapons, ammunition, and human cannon-fodder.
Countries that have Magnitsky laws have yet to apply them against the corrupt Russian officials who are holding hostage political prisoners like Sakharov Prize laureate Oleh Sentsov and over 70 other Ukrainians. The US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia (which have these prudent legal measures to defend global human rights) should apply Magnitsky laws against Russian torturers and abusers and kidnappers in a timely and judicious manner. Otherwise, Magnitsky laws have no meaning.
The EU sanctioned Russian individuals responsible for the illegal presidential election for the Russian Federation that was held in Crimea, Ukraine on 18 March 2018. The United States and Canada have so far failed to match the EU. It is essential that Western powers show unity in the face of Russian aggression, and not leave loopholes in the sanctions regimes for the Putin regime to exploit. The Russians have already done so: Putin made EU and Canada-sanctioned war criminal Anatoly Antonov the ambassador the US to exploit the fact that the Americans had failed to sanction him.
The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine is expanding into the Sea of Azov. Muscovy has been attacking Ukraine without pause in Donbas since its army invaded in April 2014. If Russian militarization of the Sea of Azov and of occupied Crimea and of occupied Donbas goes unchecked, a greater European war is inevitable. More sanctions on Russian individuals and entities is the very least the the European Union and other pillars of the West should be doing.