Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 18.11.2018
“As a matter of international law, and notwithstanding the fact that Russia is in effective control, Crimea is part of Ukraine. Ukraine has now closed the Crimean Ports. As a matter of Ukrainian law, it is illegal for vessels to call there.” The Security Service of Ukraine said this in a statement in February 2016.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2014. Foreign occupation forces prevented Ukrainian authorities from regulating maritime traffic to and from ports in Crimea. On 16 June 2014, the Ukrainian government ordered the closure of Kerch, Theodosia, Sevastopol, Yalta and Evpatoria ports to international shipping. Ukrainian legislation was reinforced by a set of tight sanctions from the European Union and the United States which were specifically aimed at restricting shipping and trade with Ukrainian Crimea while it is temporarily Russian-occupied.
Ukraine has arrested or placed under restriction only a tiny number of the many vessels that have violated Ukrainian law and international sanctions. Spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, Oleh Slobodyan, said on November 15: “Already 15 vessels have been placed under arrest or other restrictions. These are all vessels that have violated Ukraine’s legislation by visiting Crimean ports.” Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine four and three quarter years ago, more than 940 foreign ships have arrived at Crimean ports.
Ukraine has stopped less than two percent of the multitude of ships that are making a mockery of maritime law and the rules-based international order. But even that tiny amount is enough to send the Russians into a fit of aggressive hysteria. A member of the Russian Federation Council, Frants Klintsevich, said that the Russian Federation is capable of blocking the Sea of Azov to Ukrainian ships “within minutes.” Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian Federation dictator Vladimir Putin, said cryptically that the Russian Federation would take measures to protect Russian businesses, sailors, or other individuals if necessary.
Ukraine promises a severe response if the Russian Federation attempts to close the Sea of Azov. This was stated by Iryna Lutsenko, representative of the President of Ukraine in the Verkhovna Rada.
On the Sea of Azov, the Russian Federation illegally controls the Crimean coast of Ukraine it invaded and occupies, illegally controls the Kerch Strait, controls the Russian Federation coast, and illegally controls some of the Donetsk region coast of Ukraine it invaded and occupies. Ukraine controls the northern Sea of Azov coast from Henichesk near Crimea to Shyrokyne east of Mariupol. Ukraine is building naval facilities at Berdyansk and has a small “mosquito fleet” of warships, but the invading Russians have far more numerous naval assets to bring to bear in the coming battle.
The Muscovy invaders of Europe in Crimea and Donbas are already arresting and harassing ships destined for Ukraine’s Sea of Azov ports. An effective blockade of Ukrainian ports is in effect – a contravention of international maritime law. The Russian Federation is engaging in economic warfare by these illegal measures.
The only thing that could stop the expansion of Putin’s War to the Sea of Azov would be resolute Western support for Ukraine’s national defence. Seeing that Western resolve has been completely lacking when faced with the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine in Donbas, Putin will almost certainly launch a violent naval and amphibious war campaign against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov soon.