Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan urged the West to impose sanctions on Russian ports on the Black Sea due to the “escalation of the situation” on Azov. According to the official, the Ukrainian side is working purposefully to achieve this goal, and the adoption of the resolution by the European Parliament on the situation in the Sea of Azov became the “first sign”, which may be followed by full-scale sanctions.
The latest statements by the US Department of State, the European Parliament and the European Commission are not an accident, it is the result of the work of the Ukrainian authorities, the delivery of truthful information to our partners in the anti-Russian coalition. I sincerely hope that the next stage of the reaction will be the imposition of sanctions on the Russian Black Sea ports, – said Omelyan.
Recall that the European Parliament on October 25 approved a resolution calling for tougher sanctions against Russia if the situation in the Sea of Azov escalates. The parliamentarians demanded that the Russian Federation “immediately cease intensive and discriminatory inspections of the courts and consider, if necessary, appropriate countermeasures,” and also suggested that a “special envoy for the Crimea and Donbas” be appointed to monitor the situation in the region.
Although from a legal point of view, the resolution is not supported by anything, since the Sea of Azov is legally considered to be the internal waters of Russia and Ukraine, and all disagreements should be resolved bilaterally between countries, international lawyer Valery Vanin called for careful consideration of this document. The first sanctions after the referendum when the Crimea decided to join with Russia also did not look serious, and four years later turned into restrictions in all areas. This resolution can also lay the foundation for further sanctions by the West, already for the situation in Azov, which Ukraine itself is aggravating.
Recall that it deteriorated after the Ukrainian frontier guards detained the Russian trawler “Nord” with a Crimean team on board in March 2018. Kiev accused the captain of illegally visiting the Crimea “for the purpose of harming state interests,” and demands that the crew members recognize themselves as citizens of Ukraine, not of the Russian Federation. In August, the Russian tanker Mechanic Pogodin was detained in Kherson. In response to these actions, Russia has tightened inspections of Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov, but within the framework of current legislation, but Kiev is not satisfied with this.
Despite its actions, the Ukrainian side is not going to denounce agreements with Moscow on the joint use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. But not because he wants to comply with them, but on the contrary, as the deputy foreign minister of Ukraine, Elena Zerkal explained, “when we continue to insist that it needs to be denounced, we, in principle, are going to confirm the position of the Russians that this agreement is in effect” .
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, commenting on the resolution of the European Parliament, said that the theme of the Sea of Azov is another propaganda card that is being played by the West. But previous propaganda cards, whether they interfered with the American election or the Skripale case, were played very successfully. Considering the resolution of the European Parliament and the statements of representatives of the US State Department that Russia allegedly exacerbates the situation in the Sea of Azov, the sanctions against Russian ports do not seem so unreal.
Potential joint exercises of the Ukrainian Navy and NATO forces in the Sea of Azov can provoke them. Kiev has already announced that it is going to hold such maneuvers in the Azov water area soon. The head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksenov in an interview noted that Russia will not allow NATO ships into their internal waters.
There will be no NATO ships in the Sea of Azov. Our country will firmly and consistently defend its national interests, no one should have any doubts in this, ”said Aksenov. What is not a reason for new sanctions?
Head of the Department of International Relations of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Boris Shmelyov, believes that Russia needs to prepare for the worst, because under current conditions sanctions against Russian Black Sea ports are not excluded.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia are in a state of cold war, and Kiev is looking for new reasons for aggravation. One of these reasons is the situation in the Sea of Azov. Although there are a number of agreements between Russia and Ukraine on relations in this region. The Sea of Azov is considered as the inland sea of Russia and Ukraine, the agreements also define the territorial waters of each country, common zones for both countries and common areas regulates the passage of ships through the Kerch Strait, and so on.
The European Parliament has already adopted a resolution on the possible imposition of sanctions against Moscow because of the situation in the Sea of Azov.
- What kind of sanctions could this be? The Ukrainian minister said about the sanctions against Russian ports, is it real?
- It may well be sanctions related to banning European countries from sending their vessels to these ports. It is even possible that vessels that will call at Russian Black Sea ports will then be barred from entering European ports. And this may apply to the Russian courts. That is, a very wide range of measures is possible with which Russia will have to reckon. This will lead to a further escalation of relations between Ukraine, Russia and the West. But Kiev is exactly what is needed, because next year there will be presidential elections. Exacerbation is beneficial for President Poroshenko, since it distracts attention from big internal problems, creates the image of a fighter for the independence of Ukraine in the eyes of anti-Russian voters. And by seeking support from Europe, he creates the basis for interaction with it. In economic terms, building relations with the EU is not very successful, therefore, it translates everything into political terms. But the Minsk agreements were hanging, the Norman four actually collapsed, and a new excuse for joint political activity is needed. The Azov Sea is becoming such a reason. If we consider that the United States promises new sanctions, the situation may become even more tense. Perhaps the meeting of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, scheduled for November 11, may change something, but I personally doubt it. You need to be ready for new challenges and think about how to answer them. Russia is put in a position where, voluntarily or unwittingly, it is necessary to reorient to the East – to China, to the Pacific region. There, in the present conditions, there is more room for maneuver.
- But after all, the Russian Black Sea ports are large logistics centers. The same Novorossiysk is the fifth port in Europe in terms of cargo turnover. The ban on entry into them will hit the Europeans themselves, will it not?
- Of course, by doing this, Europeans will also create problems for themselves. But this is the case when the interests of politics are higher than the economy, and the West is pursuing a course on the principle “in spite of my grandmother I will freeze my ears”. We can hope for the best, but we must prepare for the worst variant of Western sanctions policy in order to be able to respond to it in a timely manner. Pavel Salin, director of the Center for Political Science of the Financial University of Finance University, believes that without US pressure, Europeans will not accept such sanctions. Europeans will be meaningful to respond to the situation in the Azov Sea. They want to forget about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, and not to denote their position. Changing the geopolitical balance after the annexation of the Crimea to Russia and the construction of the Crimean Bridge is a very big problem for Ukraine. But the unofficial position of Europeans in fact lies in the fact that these are problems of Kiev, which do not concern them. The Ukrainian authorities can make statements, but Europe will not get into this story.
- This is only a resolution. If we talk about economic reaction, I do not think that the EU will go for real sanctions against Russian ports. European sanctions against Russia were taken under US pressure, and because of this they cannot be lifted, despite the fact that they cause losses to the EU countries. There is no clear US position on the Sea of Azov, and it is unlikely to appear. They have elections on their nose, and the reason for new restrictions will be, rather, “Russian intervention” or another topic that is more understandable to their voters. With regard to Azov, statements of condemnation may follow, but without specifics, therefore, Europeans will not be drawn into these processes. Any economic sanctions will hit Europe itself, and the existing restrictions are enough for them.
– What if Ukraine tries to hold NATO exercises in the waters of the Sea of Azov?
– This situation is a more real threat. It is not known how NATO will respond to this Kiev initiative. They criticize us for being active in the Baltics or for doing exercises in Belarus, so they may try to respond asymmetrically and conduct exercises in the Sea of Azov. But this step is not economic, but military-political, and has no relation to sanctions against ports.