Dire strait: on Russia-Ukraine sea clash

Dire strait: on Russia-Ukraine sea clash


  1. The article discusses about the geopolitical imperative of greater engagement with Moscow in light of the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine’

Important Facts:

  1. Background:
  • ​Russia has forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, claiming its ethnic Russian majority was under threat from the Ukrainian government.
  1. Immediate crises:
  • Tensions escalated rapidly recently when Russia blocked Ukrainian Navy ships from entering the Kerch strait, detained 24 Ukraine sailors and reopened the Kerch Strait to civilian ship traffic.
  • Russia claims the detained soldiers include Ukrainian intelligence service members and Ukrainian boats had illegally entered Russia’s territorial waters through the Kerch Strait.
  • Meanwhile, a Crimean court ordered five of 24 captured Ukrainian sailors to be held in jail for two months for their involvement in the incident.
  1. About Ukraine Martial Law:
  • Ukraine’s parliament voted to approve martial law which gives Ukrainian authorities the power to mobilise citizens with military experience, regulate the media and restrict public rallies in affected areas.
  1. Agreements concerning Azov Sea:
  • Under a 2003 agreement, Ukraine and Russia took shared control of the Azov Sea and guaranteed each other’s ships open access to it via the Kerch Strait.
  • But when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, it took over both sides of the Kerch Strait and build a bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia.
  1. Russia’s stand:
  • Russia said the Ukrainian ships were violating its waters and accuses the Ukrainians of failing to inform it that three of its ships were planning to sail through Kerch.
  • Moscow has also accused Kiev of planning the recent confrontation as a provocation aimed at convincing Western governments to impose further sanctions on Russia.
  • Ukraine is due to hold a presidential poll March 31, 2019 and the very prospect of martial law could help boost support for him as a wartime leader.
  1. Ukraine’s stand:
  • Ukraine said that Russia used a tanker to block access to the Kerch Strait, which under a treaty is shared territory.
  • Ukraine is demanding Russia to immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships captured in recent confrontation.
  • Ukraine received a boost from the international reaction, underscoring both the isolation of Russia from the West over the Ukraine conflict, and the desire to protect the international maritime convention that allows for unimpeded shipping through any strait.
  1. Significance:
  • The latest incident coincides with the anniversary of the November 2013 Maidan Square protests in Ukraine demanding integration with Europe, which was the prelude to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
  • If martial law is  imposed, it would be the first time since the crisis between Moscow and Kiev began in 2014 that such measures have been taken.
  • Controlling passage from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov is a key element in asserting Russia’s broader claim to Crimea.
  • The confrontation has raised fears of a wider escalation in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014 and prompted international calls for restraint.
  • The tensions over a shared waterway has escalated into a crisis that has dragged in NATO and the United Nations.
  1. United Nations Meet:
  • At the United Nations, Russia called a session of the Security Council in an attempt to force a discussion about what it called Ukrainian violations of Russian territorial waters.
  • S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, on the other hand condemned Russia for its “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.


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