A coastguard ship of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service has seized the Nord fishing vessel flying the flag of the Russian Federation in the territorial waters of Russia. The incident took place near the sea border between the Russian Republic of Crimea [not recognized by Ukraine] and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov on March 25.
The fishing vessel with 10 people on board was arrested and tugged to the Ukrainian port of Berdiansk.
“It was established during the inspection that it was registered in the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In addition, crew members violated the procedure for leaving the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine. All of them had so-called passports of Russian citizens issued in the city of Kerch,” the press office of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service said in a statement.
The vessel’s crew faces charges of “illegally crossing the border.” The Nord’s master has been charged with a “violation of the order of entry into the occupied territory of Ukraine [meaning Crimea].”
The first week after the incident Russia acted carefully using mostly diplomatic channels to solve the issue. Such a careful appraoch was likely implemented by Russia because the Nord case was the first time when Ukrainian forces seized a Russian [Crimean] civil ship. However, on April 4, multiple signals and reports appeared indicating that Russia is preparing for a tough response to Ukraine’s actions. Particularly, Russia may ban maritime traffic through the Kerch Strait thus blocking the Ukrainian economic maritime trade activity through the Sea of Azov.
It is important to note that the current legal status of the Sea of Azov is unclear. A range of international treaties concerning the status of the sea between Ukraine and Russia has de-facto become inoperative.