NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the countries members of the Alliance are alarmed by Russia’s "destabilizing" behavior in the Sea of Azov. According to Radio Liberty, Stoltenberg assured that NATO is keeping an eye on this issue.
The NATO Secretary General said that Russia's actions in the Sea of Azov follow a pattern of a behavior model that Moscow has been demonstrating for a long time.
According to Stoltenberg, this model includes Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as well as “destabilizing activity” in the Donbas.
“Ukraine should have free sea communication channels. This is also important for NATO ships having trade relations with Ukraine. This is the problem we are working on,” said Stoltenberg.
He stressed that Russia should respect its international obligations, including the freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that NATO ships would not be able to conduct exercises in the Sea of Azov. According to him, Ukraine wants to arrange Alliance’s exercises in the Sea of Azov, but due to the law, this will not be possible. The Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation requires both countries consent for warships to pass across the Sea of Azov.
In early July, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine stated that within a few days the Russian FSB had detained 11 Ukrainian merchant ships in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said that Russia is trying to block Berdyansk and Mariupol ports in order to “discourage” ship owners from entering. According to him, the number of calls to ports decreased by ten percent, and Ukraine’s losses amounted to hundreds of millions of Ukrainian hryvnias.
Kyiv announced plans to recognize the Sea of Azov as an ordinary territorial sea, and not as a sea for the internal use of Russia and Ukraine.