Russia fires on Ukrainian vessels in Kerch Strait

Russia and Ukraine are at it again, this time with a conflict of some kind in Kerch Strait. Via BBC:

Ukraine’s navy says Russia has fired on and seized three of its vessels off the coast of the annexed Crimea, in a major escalation of tensions.

It said two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian special forces after a chase. Two Ukrainian crew members were injured.

Russia is yet to comment on the claims.

The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters and stopped them from sailing into the Sea of Azov.

The Russians placed a cargo ship under a bridge in the Kerch Straight. It is the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko later called an urgent meeting of his “war cabinet”, his spokesperson said.


Russia, obviously, has a rather different portrayal of what happened telling TASS the Ukrainians intruded on their waters.

Three Ukrainian warships have illegally crossed Russia’s state border entering its territorial waters, and are carrying out dangerous maneuvers, the Federal Security Service’s Border Service in Crimea said on Sunday.

“This morning at around 7:00 a.m. Moscow Time three ships of Ukraine’s Navy violated Articles 19 and 21 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which define the right of a coastal state to ensure maritime security, crossed the Russian state border and illegally entered the temporarily closed waters of the Russian territorial sea,” the statement said.

The Ukrainian warships continue heading to the Kerch Strait, where the traffic is regulated under a schedule approved by the captain of the Russian sea port. A source in Crimea’s maritime authorities said the vessels are expected to reach the Kerch Strait in an hour and a half.

The Ukrainian warships are conducting dangerous maneuvers and are failing to meet the requirements, the Federal Security Service’s Border Department in Crimea said. “Until now the requests have not been sent in due order, the vessels have not been included in the schedule of passage. The vessels are carrying out dangerous maneuvers and are disobeying the Russian authorities’ demands,” the statement said.


The reaction to what happened pretty much fell along expected lines. Pro-Ukranian countries and groups are worried and want Russia to back down.

Pro-Russia countries, specifically Crimea, are blaming the West for what happened. Via TASS:

Western countries are behind the provocation of Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea, which intruded into Russia’s territorial waters, head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov said on Sunday.
“Today, Ukrainian warships illegally crossed Russia’s border and blatantly violated norms of international law. I am sure Western patrons of the Kiev regime are behind this provocation – it doesn’t look a mere coincidence that European and American politicians have been so concerned over the situation in the Sea of Azov in the recent months. Ukraine, as a country stripped of sovereignty and being under external governance, is an instrument for whipping up international tensions,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

He stressed that responsibility for the incident rests on Kiev. “It will be Ukraine’s interests to be impacted by such actions, as it was after the seizure of the Nord ship’s crew,” he noted.

He did not rule out that such provocation could be continues but reassured that it would not tell on Crimea’s everyday life. “I think hysterics and provocations on the part of the neighboring country will continue as long as the Russophobic regime controlled from abroad rules in Kiev,” he noted. “I would like to reassure people living in Crimea that such pathologic activities will in no way impact the peaceful life on our peninsula. Crimea’s security is safeguarded duly and reliably.”


The truth is probably somewhere in between on what really happened between Russia and Ukraine – and a lot of caution is needed before throwing blame at one group or the other (not that it will stop politicians or ‘experts’ from attempting to do either). I saw someone on Twitter criticize President Donald Trump on not opining on it yet, but frankly, the President is right to not say anything. There are too many moving parts, at the moment, and waiting to pop off is a good thing.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, ends up happening between both countries and if diplomacy will actually prevail.

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