The developments in the Sea of Azov this past weekend show that Russia intends to take sole control over access to Ukrainian ports, said Kurt Volker, the US State Department’s Special Representative for Ukraine, as reported by Ukrinform.
“I think that this is a matter of access to Mariupol for Ukrainians. Russia is claiming the unilateral right to control this access, that’s the problem. This definitely doesn’t mean that Russia is going to undertake a new offensive on land,” the American diplomat responded when asked whether he thought it likely that Russia would make a new attempt to capture a ground corridor to Crimea.
Volker said that he would be surprised if the Russians took such a step. The attempts to control sea waters are concerning enough as it is, he observed.
The State Department representative reaffirmed that the US and its partners categorically do not recognize Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, neither do they recognize the claims that these waters are exclusively Russian.
“Russia must respect and comply with the 2003 agreement,” he said.
Volker considers the statements by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley “very powerful”, and in line with what the US’s European partners have said. The essence of them is: “there is no justification for the Russian attack, the sailors and ships must be released immediately, and there is no reason to detain them any longer”.
They demand that Russia make efforts to resolve the conflict. There must be negotiation, there must be a solution. The same applies to the Minsk agreements, which must be implemented.
“At present we aren’t seeing anything of the sort,” the special representative observed.
Volker added that he considers it pointless to expand the existing negotiation format, even after these recent developments. Washington backs Germany and France for the leading role they take and the work they put into the Normandy Format, Volker noted. The problem with the Normandy Format is not with Germany or France, but with Russia, which is “completely unwilling to take these negotiations seriously”. The US and its partners are maintaining dialog with Russia, but Russia is not making any serious attempts to deal with the problem.
Volker said that he intends to visit Ukraine and Russia in December.