US senators demand increased presence in the Black Sea
A group of the US senators presented a draft of the multinational operation in the Black Sea to ensure freedom of navigation. Moreover, the group demanded that the authorities implement it. This is happening against the backdrop of threatening statements by the leadership of Ukraine to arrange another march of Ukrainian boats through the Kerch Strait, but more prepared this time.
After some detente, tensions around the Kerch Strait began to increase again. Not a member of the Verkhovna Rada with a reduced sense of responsibility, but the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksandr Turchinov, spoke about the next campaign of Ukrainian ships in the strait. His statement coincided with the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said that the Russian side knows the intentions of the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, to arrange a provocation in the Russian direction before the New Year. And then the draft of the American senators appeared.
The document calls on US President Donald Trump to organize and lead a multinational operation to ensure free navigation in the Black Sea, at the same time giving a rebuff to Moscow’s elevated claims. Along the way, the senators called on Washington’s European partners to boycott the Russian navy — to close their ports, refuse to refuel and replenish supplies and water. As for Ukraine itself, it’s very easy - to provide all the necessary assistance to improve security and enhance naval capabilities. The draft of the senators closely matches the recent statement by the US Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Walker, on the need to strengthen Washington’s presence in the Black Sea. The American side does not seem to have heard the response of the Russian Foreign Ministry that such a scenario is far from a peacemaking nature and only contributes to the escalation of tensions.
Recall that what happened was preceded by a maritime incident on November 25th, when three Ukrainian warships entered the temporarily closed water area and moved from the Black Sea to the Kerch Strait, thereby violating the sea border of Russia. Refusing to obey, they provoked the Russian side to use force and therefore were detained. Medical assistance was provided to three wounded Ukrainian sailors. The Russian side opened a criminal case on the fact of violation of the state border.
This is not the only incident in the last period. According to experts, it was Ukraine that began to undermine stability at sea, detaining the Russian fishing vessel Nord in 15 maritime miles from the border in March of this year, and Ukrainians didn’t even have a formal reason for such actions. A week later, the Russian side responded by detaining Ukrainian fishermen in their (!) waters. Only in October, the parties managed to agree and make an exchange. But the incidents have not stopped. So in early November, in the port of Mariupol, a Russian ship heading for Belgium was detained. And before that, two Ukrainian search vessels passed through the Kerch Strait without coordinating the route with the Russian services.
The project of the group of the US senators appeared against such a difficult background. On the one hand, it is encouraging Ukraine’s actions, and, on the other, is of a precautionary nature for Russia. Political analyst, deputy head of the department of post-Soviet countries of the Russian State Humanitarian University, Alexander Gushchin, not excluding fully probable clashes at sea, believes that the document of the senators is more a ”probing of the West and a signal to maintain the general tension." “It’s not clear whether they will send massive ships, but the NATO ship may well appear as an observer. They most likely will not go into a direct confrontation. Do not forget about the internal situation in Ukraine — the electoral aspect. The martial law expires soon and there is a question - what to do next, "Alexander Gushchin told Vestnik Kavkaza.
TASS military commentator Viktor Litovkin, commenting on the situation, told Vestnik Kavkaza that “no one can forbid the passage of Ukrainian warships through the Kerch Strait, provided that their crews observe the international and Russian navigation rules.” "Firstly, they must receive permission from the Russian border guards to enter the Russian territorial waters, declare the purpose of entry. Secondly, approaching the Kerch Strait, they should line up at the passage. There are quite a few vessels that go to Berdyansk, Mariupol, Taganrog, Rostov-on-Don, and there is a queue for the passage because everyone will not be able to pass through the Kerch-Yenikalsky Canal at the same time. Third, they must apply for the passage to the captain of the Kerch port. He will provide them with a pilot who will arrive on the Ukrainian ship along with a representative of the border guards, and under their control, Ukrainian ships will be able to pass the Kerch Strait. Otherwise, it is impossible. For the first time when Ukrainian ships, a tugboat and a command ship, passed through the strait, they acted that way, although the Ukrainian media wrote that " they crossed the Strait of Kerch, despite the efforts of the Russian border guards ". This is nonsense,’’ Viktor Litovkin said.
According to the expert, if there are OSCE observers or representatives of the NATO countries on Ukrainian ships, which is unlikely, no one will interfere with them. A Ukrainian ship - the territory of Ukraine. They can take anyone on board as passengers. "A warship of a third country may not be allowed to pass through the Kerch Strait. These are our territorial waters, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, but in fact, this is so, and the Russian sailors will defend their territory, as required by the charter," Litovkin told Vestnik Kavkaza.