Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been rocky since Russia forcibly annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Now a bad situation is getting worse. Yesterday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure claimed Russia has blocked 35 merchant ships from leaving or entering the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin denies the claim.
The Ukrainian ministry says 18 ships were stuck in the Black Sea waiting to pass through the Kerch Strait, into the Sea of Azov. They also claim another 17 vessels were unable to sail out of the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insists Russian authorities haven’t imposed any restrictions and that the logjam could be linked to poor weather.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have escalated after a weekend incident in which the Russian coast guard fired on and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels and their crews near the Kerch Strait.
President Petro Poroshenko says Ukraine’s government will impose unspecified restrictions on Russian citizens in response to the seizure of the three Ukrainian vessels and their crews. The Ukrainian leader tweeted yesterday: “There will be restrictions regarding Russian citizens, which I believe are quite justified.” Ukrainian authorities have already denied entry to an increased number of Russians following the weekend incident.
Poroshenko says further pressure needs to be put on Moscow by members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He is urging NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov amid the standoff.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu says NATO ships routinely patrol and exercise in the Black Sea. She says, “There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region.”
(Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, second from right, speaks with soldiers during military training, Ukraine, November, 28, 2018. AP Photo)