Staunton, April 24 – Russia may be extending its control over the Black Sea at the very moment Moscow is being praised for pulling back its land forces from the Ukrainian border given that the Russian defense ministry has just confirmed that it has closed additional portions of the Black Sea.
That decision, announced without much fanfare, appears in the most recent bulletin of the Administration for Navigation and Oceanography of the Russian Ministry of Defense (topwar.ru/182345-rossija-podtverdila-zakrytie-chasti-akvatorii-chernogo-morja-dlja-opredelennyh-sudov-i-korablej.html).
According to its provisions, because of plans for exercises, Russia is closing three districts in the Black Sea from today through the end of October. Moscow had already made a similar declaration closing off the Sea of Azov to outside shipping, in clear violation of international law (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/04/russia-violating-international-law-by.html).
The Russian move in the Black Sea is even more in violation of international law because there are disputes over the status of the Sea of Azov, which Moscow argues is an internal body of water. But extending such claims to portions of the Black Sea is even more in violation of Law of the Sea and other international rules.
Moreover, unless and until Moscow rescinds this announcement and pulls back its ships from any effort to enforce its provisions, there is a risk that the Russian military will retain the capacity to attack Ukraine from the sea even if it has pulled back from the Ukrainian border on land.
At the very least, Russia’s publication of this announcement shows that the supposed end of a Russian threat to Ukraine has ended at least for the time being should be treated with extreme skepticism as indeed some experts have suggested. (See topwar.ru/182368-dymovaja-zavesa-v-shvecii-ne-poverili-v-otvod-rossijskoj-armii-ot-ukrainskih-granic.html.)
That is because Moscow has moved ships with landing craft capabilities from its Caspian Flotilla into the region, vessels that could be used against Ukraine from the sea