Staunton, April 15 – The international community has focused on Russia’s buildup of forces on territory adjoining Ukraine, concerned that such a concentration of military power will be used against its neighbor. But as Moscow routinely insists, it has the right to shift its forces on its own territory at all. It would only be a problem if it sent them across the border.
But on the waters off Ukraine, Russia is already in violation of international law, as the Ukrainian foreign ministry pointed out today. Moscow earlier announced that it was unilaterally closing the Kerch straits between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to the naval vessels of Ukraine and other countries until October (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/rossiya-zakryla-ukraine-kerchenskiy-proliv-1030310169).
Moscow’s justification for this action is that it plans naval exercises in the region and wants to avoid any accidental clashes. But as the Ukrainian foreign ministry points out, “such actions by the Russian federation are the latest attempt to violate the norms and principles of international law” (kmu.gov.ua/news/zayava-mzs-ukrayini-u-zvyazku-iz-obmezhennyam-rosijskoyu-federaciyeyu-svobodi-sudnoplavstva-v-chornomu-mori).
Moreover, the ministry continued, they “usurp the sovereign rights of Ukraine as a littoral stage because Ukraine has rights to regulate shipping in these areas of the Black Sea.” It called on the international community to support it against this latest Russian move to put pressure on Ukraine, especially as this action is clearly a violation of international law.
That there is a danger of accidents in the area was highlighted when an FSB cutter and a Ukrainian vessel almost collided (facebook.com/navy.mil.gov.ua/posts/1811174155752513), the result of the introduction into this crowded waterway of additional Russian vessels from the Caspian Flotilla (jamestown.org/program/moscow-moving-15-warships-from-caspian-sea-to-waters-off-ukraine/ and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/04/moscows-use-of-caspian-flotilla-against.html).