Russian authorities announced the closure of three parts of the Black Sea to foreign warships and state vessels, according to local media citing the Defense Ministry. The measure was scheduled from 21 (local time) this Saturday and will run until October 31. Ukraine indicated that the measure is “aggressive” and “illegal”.
Despite warnings from Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), Russia takes a new step in tension with Kiev. The Russian authorities ordered to block access to foreign vessels in three sectors of the Black Sea, scene of the escalation with the neighboring nation.
The restrictions affect the western tip of Crimea, a peninsula that was annexed in 2014 and sparked the fighting, the region’s southern coast from Sevastopol to Hurzuf, and a “rectangle” off the Kerch peninsula, near the nature reserve of Opuksky.
The Ministry of Defense stipulated the measure from 21 (local time) this Saturday, April 24 until next October 31. The decision further deepens the confrontation with Ukraine, which described the restriction on freedom of navigation in the area as “aggressive” and “illegal”, as it considers that it violates its rights as a coastal country.
The US State Department expressed “deep concern” over the move. His spokesman, Ned Price, called the Russian actions “another unprovoked escalation in Moscow’s ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine.”
Last week, Moscow had indicated that it would proceed with the closures in the Black Sea for military exercises, including the launching of artillery shells and missiles, and also for technical work in the area.
However, he insists that it does not affect the Kerch Strait, which separates Crimea from the mainland and links the Sea of Azov – shared by Russia and Ukraine – with the Black Sea.
A new step in the escalation of recent weeks
In recent weeks, the conflict between Kiev and Moscow has been aggravated by the massive mobilization of Russian troops to the border, which has raised the alarm of NATO, the United States and the European Union, which indicated that it was the largest deployment of foreign military close to the Ukrainian border.
However, on April 22, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his country’s General Staff and commanders to withdraw the soldiers and return to their permanent bases before May 1, in what appeared to be a de-escalation. of the confrontation. But the tension would now shift to the maritime field.
Since Russia’s construction of the bridge linking the Crimean peninsula to the mainland, Kiev has accused Moscow of wanting to turn the Azov into an inland sea.
The Kremlin’s intentions with its new military moves in border areas are still unclear. Some political experts and the director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, have pointed to a possible political strategy, due to the fall in popularity of President Vladimir Putin, with about 20 years in power, who faces protests over the imprisonment of the opposition leader Alexéi Navalny and the economic recession, among other reasons.
Next October the Russians will go to the polls to renew their Parliament, the Duma, and the party of the head of state is at risk of losing its majority control. In the past, Putin has used the conflict with Ukraine to try to increase his level of acceptance.
With EFE and local media