BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
On November25, Ukraine’s Berdyansk and Nikopol gunboats and the Yany Kapu tug crossed into temporarily off-limits Russian territorial waters, moving from the Black Sea to the Kerch Strait, thus violating Articles 19 and 21 of the United Nations Convention of Sea Law.
In a parallel development, another two Ukrainian vessels were heading at full speed from the port city of Berdyansk in the Sea of Azov towards the Kerch Strait, which Russian security service described as a zone where a provocation, organized by Kiev, was unfolding.
In a bid to halt the Ukrainian naval vessels’ unauthoriSed attempts to pass through the Kerch Strait, Russia deployed its own naval assets, as well as combat aircraft, with Su-25 jets patrolling the area in the vicinity of the Crimean Bridge.
As the ships approached the Kerch Strait, Russian vessels went on to pursue the intruders, who failed to respond to demands to leave the area and proceeded to make dangerous manoeuvres, thus prompting the Russian side to open fire.
During the incident, three Ukrainian soldiers were slightly injured. They were given medical care and there was no threat to life. The three ships were eventually detained and escorted to the port of Kerch.
Reacting to the flagrant violation of key provisions of international law, the Russian Foreign ministry accused Ukraine of an “unequivocal provocation and aggression.”
The Russian Foreign ministry declared a “resolute protest over Ukrainian naval forces’ ships’ violation of rules of innocent passage in the Russian territorial waters of the Black Sea. . . .”
“ We would like to warn the Ukrainian side that its policy, coordinated with the United States and the European Union and designed at provoking conflict with Russia, is fraught with serious consequences,” the ministry said in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also underscored the fact that the Russian border guards acted in compliance with international law to curb the foreign intrusion and protect the country’s territory from violators, who did not respond to any requests to withdraw from the area.
Russia’s Federal Security circulated video footage on 26 November, where a detained Ukrainian naval officer admits that he recognised the provocative nature of the actions of the Ukrainian navy during the incident in the Kerch Strait.
The officer in the video is Commander Volodymir Lesovoy — commander of an auxiliary ship unit of the Ukrainian navy.
“I deliberately ignored requests to stop transmitted at VHF radiofrequencies. At the time of the mission, we had small arms and large-caliber machine guns with ammunition on board,”Lesovoy said in the video.
“I was well aware that the actions of the Ukrainian navy in the Kerch Strait are provocative,” he said, adding that he was fulfilling orders as a subordinate officer to take the ships from the port of Odessa to the port of Mariupol.
After calling on its allies and partners to provide military assistance to “deter the aggressor”, Ukrainian President Poroshenko signed a decree introducing martial law in the country
Besides the unfortunate call to arms, Kiev encouraged its Western partners to step up sanctions on Russia.
Although Ukrainian ships violated international law by illegally entering Russia’s territorial waters, the West, as is wont, was quick to blame the escalation of the situation in the Kerch Strait on Moscow.
Blaming all mortal sins on Russia and refusing to accept its moves has been a common phenomenon: even though 97% of Crimea’s population voted in favour of reuniting with Russia in a 2014 referendum, Western countries have consistently neglected the people’s will, refusing to recognise the outcome of the vote – and imposing more and more sanctions on Russia.
Tensions in the maritime region of the Sea of Azov mounted this year after Ukraine detained two Russian civilian vessels heading to ports in the Crimea, which Kiev considers to be Ukrainian territory.
Describing the move as “maritime terrorism”, Russia increased patrols off the country’s Azov coast, which prompted Kiev to accuse Moscow of illegal searches.
Most recently, Russia warned Ukraine against any attempts to alter the status of the Sea of Azov as inland waters shared by the two countries.
“Such efforts would be deemed as a violation of international laws”, Moscow added, urging Kiev “to refrain from any steps to unilaterally establish a state border in the Sea of Azov, which Russia does not recognize”.
The operation to storm the Kerch Strait, with artistry turned over On November 25 by the naval forces of Ukraine and the declaration of martial law in Ukraine, gave rise to a question: “why it was?”.
Now a special legal regime allows Kiev to introduce a military administration instead of a civil one in the regions of the country.
In addition, their martial law allows temporarily restriction of the constitutional rights and freedoms of a person and citizen, “as well as the rights and legitimate interests of legal entities” to seize property, declare a curfew.
The list of possible restrictions is very wide – up to the prohibition of “peaceful assemblies, rallies, marches and demonstrations, and other public events”.
The legislation allows for the consideration of the issue of “prohibiting the activities of political parties and public associations”.
Earlier, Poroshenko refused to impose martial law, although Kiev regularly accused Moscow of “aggressive actions”.
At the time the Ukrainian leader explained the stance, saying in this case the state would not be able to receive external financial assistance.
So, what has changed? The presidential elections are approaching in Ukraine and will be held in March 2019. And Poroshenko is dreaming about winning the polls.
Igor Lutsenko, a deputy to the Parliament of Ukraine, believes that the declaration of martial law may be related to the upcoming presidential elections next year
“The simplest explanation is that Poroshenko is considering the possibility of martial law and the abolition of elections,” he said.
Oksana Syroyed, vice-speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, believes that “martial law throughout Ukraine is a great opportunity to manipulate presidential elections and, if necessary, introduce a little dictatorship”.
And yes, Poroshenko can do all in order to stay at his “favourite job” for another four years.
Actually, this is why we can only sympathise with the citizens of Ukrainian because they are being turned into a means of realising not even great-strategic, but someone’s petty personal interests.