Russia has started firing exercises in the Azov Sea, closing two thousand square kilometers of the sea for Ukrainian vessels as an ultimatum, military reporter Andriy Tsaplienko stated on Facebook, noting that this distance to the Ukrainian coast violates the convention on the Law of the Sea.
“The threat is approaching our shores,” the statement reads. “Russia is closing two thousand square kilometers of the Azov Sea for Ukrainian vessels as an ultimatum. Firing exercises are said to be conducted there. But note that the distance from this area to the Ukrainian coast is less than 10 miles (16 km). Therefore, it is less than the International Convention on the Law of the Sea allows.”
The Azov Sea has a unique and insidious legal status because it is an inland Sea of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, Ukrainian TV program TSN Tyzhden reported.
“The status of the inland Sea enables Russian vessels to approach Ukraine’s coast within an indefinite distance,” the Deputy Commander of Maritime border guard unit, Mykola Levytsky, stated.
In other words, Russian vessels can approach Ukrainian shores without it being considered a border violation. The international community will not help Ukraine to confront Russia because during Leonid Kuchma’s presidency, an agreement was signed that all disputes in the Sea are solved solely at the bilateral level.
That is why, according to experts, the construction of the Kerch Bridge, which already threatens the economy of the Azov region, has been made possible. 144 vessels have already refused to visit Mariupol, and any critical situation around construction will be a reason for Russians to close the passage.
On May 15, the official opening of the Kerch Strait Bridge road section took place. It was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The 19-km Bridge connects the annexed Crimea and Krasnodar Krai. The cost of its construction was 6.9 billion rubles, or 111 million dollars.
The UN, USA and European Union condemned the construction of the bridge, calling it a violation of Ukraine’s state sovereignty. President Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister reiterated the lawsuits against the Russian Federation regarding the construction in the waters of the Azov Sea.
Ukraine is conducting an environmental impact assessment of Russia’s construction of the Kerch Bridge. If the threat of an ecological catastrophe is confirmed, Kyiv will appeal to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation countries. Moreover, according to the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, the construction of the bridge prevents transport connections of Ukraine with international markets.