Ukraine and the EU condemn Russia’s decision to restrict the navigation of foreign military and official vessels.
Russia will restrict the navigation of foreign military and official ships in parts of the Black Sea until October, according to a Russian news agency, prompting an early condemnation from Ukraine and the European Union.
Friday’s announcement is coming in the midst of tensions between Moscow and Kiev which have intensified in recent weeks after an upsurge in fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Russia has massed his troops along Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders and on the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed to Ukraine in 2014. This week, Russia also conducted naval exercises in the Black Sea.
“From 9 p.m. on April 24 to 9 p.m. on October 31, the passage through the territorial sea of the Russian Federation for foreign military ships and other state ships will be interrupted,” quoted the official RIA Novosti news agency. , citing a defense ministry. statement as saying Friday.
The restrictions will affect the western tip of Crimea, the southern coast of the Sevastopol peninsula at Hurzuf and a “rectangle” off the Kerch peninsula near the Opuksky nature reserve.
A senior EU official called the move a “very worrying development”.
This decision is in contradiction with the norms of free maritime passage and international law and adds to the tensions around “the military build-up on the other side of the Russian border with Ukraine”, the official told the agency. AFP press release.
The official said the restrictions would increase tensions as Russia “took unilateral steps in an international space.”
One of the areas affected by Russia’s restrictions is located near the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov and is of crucial importance for the export of grain and steel from from Ukraine.
The Kerch Strait became a scene of clashes in 2018 after Russia seized three Ukrainian ships there for alleged violations of its territorial waters.
Ukraine was free to navigate the Kerch Strait with Russia until 2014, when Moscow claimed full control of the waterway after annexing Crimea.
The Kerch Strait is also the site of an expensive 19 km (12 mile) bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia that Moscow opened in 2018.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry on Thursday criticized the navigation restrictions, which were initially reported without details earlier this week, as “an usurpation of Ukraine’s sovereign rights.”
He also stressed that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, “Russia must neither hinder nor interrupt transit through the international strait to the ports of the Sea of Azov”.