The Sea of Azov should not become a Russian lake
On 25 November 2018, Russian vessels rammed, fired on, and seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels at the entrance of the Kerch Strait which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. 24 Ukrainian sailors were captured, among which six were injured. With this act of aggression, Russia is trying to impose its control over the Azov Sea to consolidate its grip on Crimea and further destabilise Ukraine. To make it clear to Russia this is unacceptable, Amanda Paul recommends a range of steps:
1. Demand the immediate release of the 24 sailors unlawfully held and forced to admit to provoking Russia on television. This act violates Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention. Independent medics should also be given access to those soldiers injured in the incident;
2. Targeted sanctions. At their forthcoming meeting on 10 December, EU Foreign Ministers are set to maintain existing EU sanctions. There will also be a discussion over possible new sanctions. Targeted sanctions should be implemented against those officers and others involved in the shooting incident on the Ukrainian vessels.
3. Deploy an OSCE maritime monitoring mission to the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. The current OSCE Mission deployed in Ukraine could be extended for this task. If Russia, as it claims, is abiding by international law and has no intention to affect peace and stability in the region, there is no reason for the Kremlin to object.
4. Strengthen Ukraine’s resilience. Presently coastal and air defences do not represent a viable deterrent against Russian aggression. Several NATO member states, including the UK and the US, have already provided Ukraine with defensive military equipment. This should continue, including surveillance equipment and land-based anti-ship missiles.
5. Help Kyiv upgrade its railway system. Mariupol is home to Ukraine’s second-biggest steelworks. The current railway has insufficient capacity to transport all its production to other ports.