On November 25th, a new round of escalation between Russia and Ukraine erupted after Ukrainian military ships entered Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea. ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION HERE
The chain of events:
- On the morning of November 25th, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reported that three Ukrainian ships were heading to the Kerch strait without permission from Russia to enter, thereby violating Maritime law. Furthermore, the Ukrainian naval group illegally entered Russian territorial waters off Crimea.
- The Ukrainian Navy claimed that the transfer of the ships (consisting of two small armored artillery boats Berdyansk and Nikopol and the Yany Kapu tugboat) was all planned.
- According to Ukraine, the Russian side was notified in advance that the ships were moving from Odessa through the Kerch Strait to Mariopol.
- The Russian side said that it has received no notifications from the Ukrainian side.
- For the next several hours, the Russian side was attempting to solve this issue peacefully via military diplomatic channels. However, it failed to do this.
- During the encounter in Russian territorial waters off Crimea the FSB coast guard ship rammed the tugboat, damaging its main engine, trim and guard rails in the process.
- On the evening of November 25th, the Russian side reported that the ships were detained and sent to the port of Kerch. The FSB insisted that they were forced to open fire, as the Ukrainian ships illegally entered Russian territorial waters, attempted illegal actions, were not responding to requests to stop and were performing dangerous maneuvers. According to the Russian side three Ukrainian soldiers received light wounds.
- Russian authorities said that a criminal case on the fact of an illegal border crossing was opened.
- On the morning of November 26th, Russia announced that civilian traffic in the Kerch Strait has been resumed as normal.
- The Ukrainian ships were delivered to the port of Kerch.
- The Russian media outlet Rusvesna revealed the names of the injured Ukrainian servicemen and their dates of birth: Artemenko Andrey Anatolyevich, 03/31/1994, Forty Vasily Viktorovich, 04/11/1991, and Eider Andrey Dmitrievich, 12/20/1999. A photograph of Andrey Artemenko (left) and Andrey Eider (right) was also released.
The reaction from the Russian side is as follows:
- The FSB called the situation a deliberate provocation by Ukraine.
- Russia called an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council on November 26th.
- Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigory Karasin said that the incident could be associated with the election campaign of Petro Poroshenko. “The goals are clear – “shake up” Ukraine with a declaration of martial law, mobilize anti-Russian sentiments of the West, tighten anti-Russian sanctions,” he claimed.
- Maria Zakharova, the Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Ukraine is resorting to “bandit methods.”
“After tearing Ukraine apart, [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko and the entire Maidan gang will then travel around the world giving lectures on the benefits of democracy, just like [former Georgian President Mikhail] Saakashvili does now. [They] have already reached peace in Donbass. Now they are onto Kerch Strait,” she posted sarcastically to her Facebook page. “[They are] highwaymen. And they use bandits’ methods, too: first, a provocation; then, exertion of force; and finally, accusing others of aggression,” she added.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said that “It definitely was a provocation. Everything that needed to be said has already been said in statements issued by the Russian FSB Border Service, the Foreign Ministry and our spokeswoman. Key international law provisions have been violated, particularly maritime law and general international law, including the UN Charter, the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea and other legal documents, which demand that all states respect the sovereignty of other countries.”
- Lavrov further claimed that the announcement of the possibility of martial law in Ukraine is an attempt to “steer out” of Ukraine’s current situation.
“You already know that the process of declaring martial law has been launched, Mr. Turchinov (Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchinov) said. Yes, this means that the elections will not be held on time. There are quite interesting things happening, and I think it will not be boring to watch how this power, the Ukrainian, is trying, in general, to steer out of a situation that is perceived by the population more and more negatively.” He noted that Russia calls on Western countries not to let Kiev exacerbate the situation in south-eastern Ukraine. “We strongly call on the Western sponsors of Kiev to calm down those who are now trying to earn political points for military hysteria in connection with the upcoming elections or other events in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.
From the Ukrainian side there was the following reaction:
- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko convened a military council and proposed a 60-day martial law in the country. During an emergency session on November 26th, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada will vote whether to impose it. He warned that the step does not mean a declaration of war against Russia. He also assured that it would not lead to general mobilization and the continuation of the conflict in Donbass.
- Poroshenko also said that Ukraine would stick to the Minsk Agreements, peace deals his government inked with Russia and the separatists in southeastern Ukraine.
- The Chief of the General Staff of Ukraine issued a decree on bringing the formations and units of the national army into full combat readiness.
- The commander of the naval forces of Ukraine, Igor Voronenko, declared the readiness of the Ukrainian military in case of a Russian military landing.
- The head of the country’s State Border Service, Peter Tsigikal, said that the authorities plan to restrict some Russians from entering Ukraine. No names were provided.
- Several protests took place in Ukraine. Protesters threw smoke bombs at the building of the Russian Embassy in Kiev. A car with diplomatic numbers was burned nearby. In Lviv, protesters set fire to car tires outside the Russian consulate building in the city.
- Earlier, on November 19th, Ukraine called on the EU to condemn Russia’s escalation and introduce sanctions against the Russian ports in the Sea of Azov. It also wants the OSCE monitoring mission mandate to be extended to cover the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.
- Ukraine also called on NATO to extend the presence of the alliance military vessels in the Black Sea and increase allied reconnaissance in the area.
The international reaction so far has been the following:
- NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said “we call for restraint and de-escalation” to both Russia and Ukraine. She also said that NATO supports Ukraine’s “navigational rights in its territorial waters” and calls on Russia “to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.
- Michael Roth, a German deputy foreign minister that the situation is “very dangerous – the last thing we need is a further escalation in relations between Russia and Ukraine.” Roth said he didn’t have any information of his own on the incident “but it is clear that Russia, in accordance with international law, must ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian harbors in the Sea of Azov.” He added that “both sides must now de-escalate” and avoid a spiral of tensions that “could ultimately lead to terrible consequences.”
- EU Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini also called on both sides to show restraint.
- The EU spokesperson released a statement following the incident calling for both sides to show restraint and for Russia to restore freedom of passage in the Kerch Strait.
“As clearly stated by the High Representative at the European Parliament recently, the events in the Sea of Azov are a demonstration of how instability and tensions are bound to rise when the basic rules of international cooperation are disregarded. The construction of the Kerch Bridge took place without Ukraine’s consent and constitutes another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It has led, in parallel with the militarisation of the Azov Sea, to tougher controls on naval traffic in the strait. The European Union expects Russia to stop the inspections.
The EU does not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia.”
- Kurt Volker, the US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations condemned Russian conduct on Twitter: “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???,” he tweeted, completely disregarding the fact that the three Ukrainian ships were military vessels.
The situation is still developing.