Image by NormanEinstein
The Sea of Azov has become the next war zone between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, as the 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Moscow has given Russia control of the body of water, and also control over access to Ukrainian ports. With the building of the Kerch Bridge, linking Russia to Crimea, the situation has grown quite tense with Russian patrol boats boarding Ukrainian vessels in an attempt to harass shipping to the port of Mariupol and other Ukrainian ports along its coast.
Today, in an escalation of tensions, reports are that Russia rammed a Ukrainian tugboat that was being escorted by two Ukrainian warships in the Kirch Strait.
Ukraine says a Russian coast guard vessel has rammed one of its navy tugboats off the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula in “openly aggressive actions,” resulting in damage to the ship. The Ukrainian Navy said the incident took place on November 25 as three of its ships including two small warships were transiting from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait between Crimea and Russia.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which oversees the country’s border guard service, accused Kyiv of illegally entering its waters and deliberately provoking a conflict, reported RFERL.
Here is a translated excerpt from the Ukrainian statement on the incident:
Today, November 25, ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine consisting of two small armored artillery boats “Berdyansk” and “Nikopol” and a raid tug “Yana Kapu” carried out a planned transfer from the port of Odessa to the port of Mariupol Azov Sea. The intention to make a change in advance was informed in accordance with international norms for the purpose of ensuring the safety of navigation. However, contrary to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on cooperation in the use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, Russian border ships – border boats of the “Sobol” type, “Don” pests, boats of the “Mongoose” type, “Suzdalez” mpc “Carried out a frankly aggressive action against the ships of the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The “Don” frontier ship carried out the ram of our raiding tug, which damaged the main ship engine, sheathing and lever fencing, and the lifeblood was lost. Dispatcher service of occupiers refuses to provide the right of freedom of navigation, guaranteed by international agreements.
Ukraine gave Russia advanced notice of the crossing, reported RFERL.
Russian news agency TASS reported on the issue this way, 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.
“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,” read the FSB statement.
With the Trump administration looking to upgrade Ukrainian naval capabilities, while arming Ukrainian troops in the Donbass region of East Ukraine, the possibility of America being drawn into this conflict is escalating. An American Air Force pilot was killed recently during an exercise flying the backseat of a Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jet that crashed during the maneuvers.
Ukraine says Russia has rammed one of its boats in the Azov Sea. Tensions have been high since Russia built Kerch Bridge and increased inspections/delays on Ukraine bound ships. https://t.co/lE5SmFKu7c
— Jonah Fisher (@JonahFisherBBC) November 25, 2018