The situation surrounding the seizure of Ukrainian military vessels in the Kerch Strait and the wounding of sailors is completely unacceptable, and the EU is working on a “more extensive” international response to Russia’s aggression in the Kerch Strait. A statement to this effect was made today by Maja Kocijančič, official spokesperson of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini.
“We demand that Russia immediately release the ships and the personnel on board who are in need of medical assistance,” the spokesperson said on Monday at a briefing in Brussels.
Kocijančič notes that Mogherini has “discussed this matter with various partners, from the moment this escalation intensified”.
“We will continue to work on a more extensive international response,” Kocijančič promised.
The spokesperson noted that contact is being maintained with entities “on all levels”, and will continue for the next few days.
When asked why the EU’s reaction to the serious developments in the Kerch Strait was only demonstrated by the representative of the European External Action Service, and not the 28 member states or Mogherini herself, Kocijančič explained that the issue is not new. The situation has already been escalating for some time, and the High Representative has been engaged with the problem since the start and spoken about it on multiple occasions. Last week, the situation in the Sea of Azov was discussed on the level of foreign ministers at the EU council.
She added that the EU governments intend to discuss the situation at the Political and Security Committee session no later than Tuesday. The matter may also be considered on other levels, she noted.
In response to questions, the spokesperson said that she will not engage in a legal interpretation of the situation. She stressed, however, that the EU supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
On the morning of November 25, Ukraine informed the Russian port of its intention to transfer three ships through the Kerch Strait, as required by the Agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. However, at around 8:00 a.m., Russian ships carried out acts of provocation against the Ukrainian vessels, even ramming into the Yany Kapu tugboat.
Russia later accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its territorial waters, claiming that they were “manoeuvring dangerously” and “not complying with the legitimate demands of the Russian authorities”. Russia also physically blocked the Kerch Strait with a transport ship. The Ukrainian ships decided to return to Odessa, but they were chased and subsequently attacked by the Russian military. The Berdyansk and Nikopol boats were hit, and two crew members were wounded. All three of the ships were captured by the Russians.