The Verkhovna Rada has passed a bill concerning Ukraine’s surrounding zone on its second reading. The bill states that the sea division of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) may open fire without warning in an event of an armed aggression in order to protect Ukrainian ships.
244 MPs voted in favor of the bill the second time.
The zone surrounding Ukraine is defined as a sea belt adjacent to Ukraine’s territorial sea, the outer border of which is no more than 24 nautical miles from the coast, calculated from the baselines which are used to measure the width of Ukraine’s territorial sea.
The law stipulates that, within its surrounding sea zone, Ukraine will exercise control to prevent violations of customs, tax, migration and sanitation legislation, and to enforce justice for such violations committed within Ukraine’s territory, including its internal waters or territorial sea.
SBGS staff are given the right to stop and inspect ships, as well as to arrest ships and crew members (except for military ships and other state vessels used for non-commercial purposes).
The SBGS also acquires the right to chase violator ships. Such a chase will end when the ship being pursued enters the territorial waters of the flag it is flying, or of another country.
Ukrainian border guards may involve the authorized organs of state authority responsible for preventing violations of customs, taxation, migration and sanitation legislation.
“Military personnel and the staff of authorized organs will apply and use physical force, special means, weapons and combat equipment in the cases and order determined by law,” the bill states.
In particular, a ship will be detained and inspected if it has turned off its automatic identification system (again, with the exception of Ukrainian military and other government vessels used for non-commercial purposes).
The Cabinet of Ministers still needs to decide how archaeological objects and other objects of cultural heritage in the surrounding zone are to be studied.