|Author (Corporate)||Cardiff EDC|
Three Ukrainian ships were seized by Russia on 25 November 2018 as they were sailing into the Kerch Strait, the only route for ship to enter the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea. Tension immediately escalated between the two countries, leading to the martial law to be implemented in parts of Ukraine thereafter for a period of 30 days. On 4 December, it was announced navigation in the Sea of Azov had been partially restored.
Ukraine authorities accused Russia of an 'act of aggression' and called the incident a violation of international law. Russia argued the Ukrainian boats had violated territorial waters, which led to its forces opening fire and seizing the vessels. Russia had reportedly closed that area of water to shipping on a temporary basis.
On 27 November, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to impose martial law in the border regions for 30 days. The country's President Petro Poroshenko later urged NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov. Russia's President Vladimir Putin accused Mr Poroshenko of staging a 'provocation' to boost his approval ratings.
The Sea of Azov and its access point through the Kerch Strait are shared by Ukraine and Russia through a bilateral treaty signed in 2003. This agreement means that vessels of both countries are free to navigate as they wish on those waters - as Russian authorities controlled the eastern side and the Ukrainians the western flank of this territory. The dynamics changed following Crimea's annexation by Russia, which brought the area fully into Russia's control. Adding to this, a bridge across the Strait was built by Russia to connect Crimea and the Russian territory.
Leading up to the incident, the number of Russian armed vessels near the Strair and in the Sea of Azov progressively increased and the inspections to cargo ships using the Ukrainian ports in the region became more frequent.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Subject Tags||Bilateral Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Russia, Ukraine|