Russia has committed another act of its militarys aggression against Ukraine by attacking Ukrainian vessels which had been making the sea passage from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol.
I. Background information
On November 23, 2018 the Ukrainian Navy boat group (consisting of small armored artillery boats – „Nikopol” and „Berdyansk”, and an inshore tugboat „Yani Kapu”) started planned transit from the naval deployment – port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol. Ukrainian Navy boats were carrying regular armament without any specific means on board. The route and procedure were the same as of September, 2018 “Donetsk” and “Korets” vessels transit.
On November 24, 2018, during the naval march, Ukrainian commander received Russian authorities notice concerning the closing of navigation in the Kerch Strait area. International Centre for Navigation Control (Spain) did not confirm this notification.
On November 25, 2018, a commander of the Ukrainian Navy boat group requested twice the maritime control officer from Kerch port concerning the passage through Kerch Strait, but did not receive any answer in response. Later on, the maritime control officer from Kerch port directed the Ukrainian Navy boat group to so-called ‘area of waiting’. It was stated that in some time Ukrainian vessels would be informed on the Kerch Strait passage procedure.
Approximately at 8:30-9:00 a.m. of November 25, 2018 Russian coastguard ship made a ram attack against inshore tugboat „Yani Kapu” and damaged it. Besides, Russian vessels blocked Ukrainian boat group to prevent them to render assistance to a damaged vessel. All the time during a provocation against Ukrainian Navy boats, Russian vessels were trying to provoke Ukrainian seamen to open fire. Moreover, by 01:00-02:00 p.m. Russia used helicopters to patrol and convoy Ukrainian vessels.
Approximately at 12:30 p.m. of November 25, 2018 Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry published its official statement on “Russia’s armed provocation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov”.
Starting from 1:40 p.m. of November 25, 2018, Russia has physically blocked the passage beneath so-called „Kerch bridge” having located there a tanker and later a cargo ship.
After 7 p.m. of November 25, 2018, due to the impossibility to pass the Strait, Ukrainian Navy ships headed back to exit a Kerch Strait. They were immediately followed by a group of 8-10 FSB Coast Guard and Russian Black Sea fleet vessels.
Approximately at 20:25 of November 25, 2018 after the exit of Ukraine’s Navy boat group from 12-mile zone, Russia’s Cost Guard boats opened fire on defeat. As a result, “Berdyansk” and “Nikopol” were damaged and lost the course. After that, Ukrainian vessels were forced to stop and later seized by FSB special forces (20:35-20:50). Six Ukrainian military seamen were wounded.
Late at night of November 26, 2018 the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC), after its extraordinary meeting under the chairmanship of President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, approved the decision to offer the President of Ukraine the introduction of martial law for a period of 60 days as a necessary step to introduce a special legal regime in Ukraine in order to create conditions for repelling armed aggression and ensuring national security, eliminating threats to independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Around 2 o’clock at night of November 26, 2018 Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry published its official statement “in connection with another act of aggression against Ukraine”.
II. Formal position of the Ukrainian side in response to Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine:
1. Ukraine is extremely concerned with the current security situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which worsened dramatically on November 25, 2018 due to the deliberate provocation and aggressive behavior of the Russian Federation.
Ukraine expresses its strong protest to the Russian Federation in connection with the armed attack and capture of the Ukrainian navy ships «Berdyansk», «Nikopol» and the tug boat «Yana Kapu», as well as the wounding and capturing of members of their crews.
For the first time Russian military has officially ordered to open fire at Ukrainian ships to target Ukrainians.
2. Ukraine has all the irrefutable evidences that this aggression, this attack on the Ukrainian Navy’s warships was not a mistake, not an accident, but a deliberate action. Including the use of weapons against Ukrainian sailors. Ukrainian military suffered casualties: 6 wounded, 2 of them gravely, 1 in critical condition.
3. Russian Federation’s actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov constitute a blatant breach of UN Charter and the UN Law of the Sea Convention.
According to Article 2 of the UN Charter all member states shall refrain from the threat of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state – what Russia did today in the Black Sea first and then near the Kerch Strait by attacking Ukrainian vessels constitute a new example of ongoing act of aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.
UN GA Resolution /29/3314 of 14 December 1974 regardless of a declaration of war qualifies as an act of aggression an attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State (Article 3(d)).
4. Acting strictly in accordance with the multilateral and bilateral international treaties, Ukraine has informed the Russians and the de-facto authorities of the Kerch Seaport through traditional channels of communication (VHF radio) of our legitimate intention to pass through the Kerch-Yenikale canal.
Ukraine has tried to establish the radio communication with the Kerch Seaport for more than two hours, but without any success. Later, Ukrainian side was informed that the Kerch-Yenikale canal was closed due to the grounding of a ship (presumably, a tanker) on the opposite side of the canal (from the Sea of Azov).
5. Further aggravation by the Russians of the security situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov cannot be ruled out.
Ukraine expects further aggressive behavior and provocations of the FSB Border Guard Service and Russian Navy.
It is Kremlin’s regime who bears full responsibility for further aggravation of the situation in the Azov and Black Seas and for undermining the peaceful settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict.
6. Ukraine expects more clear qualifications of this act of aggression and decisive actions against Russian aggressor, including increased political pressure on Moscow aimed at de-escalation of the security situation on the sea and unblocking the free crossing of the Kerch-Yenikale canal by the Ukrainian military ships, imposition of new sanctions.
Ukraine would like to invite the military ships of our partners to be deployed in the Black Sea to deter further escalation by Russian Federation.
7. The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine approved the decision to offer the President of Ukraine the introduction of martial law for a period of 60 days. The NSDC considers it necessary to introduce a special legal regime in Ukraine in order to create conditions for repelling armed aggression and ensuring national security, eliminating threats to independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The Parliament of Ukraine is expected to take the decision on Monday November 26.
Adoption of the martial law doesn’t mean declaring war against Russia; Ukraine is ready to settle the situation in political and diplomatic way, at the same time is ready to use all the forces for self-defense.
The Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Lithuania