The European Union has called on Russia and Ukraine to “act with utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately” while Nato has urged “restraint and de-escalation”, following soaring tensions over a November 25 confrontation between the Russia and Ukrainian navies in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait.
The tensions in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait increased dangerously on November 25, after an incident between Russian and Ukrainian naval vessels as the latter were attempting to pass through the Kerch strait as well as subsequent developments, including the closure of the strait for traffic by Russian authorities and reported seizures of Ukrainian vessels and shots being fired at them, the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement.
“We expect Russia to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch strait and urge all to act with utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately,” the EEAS said.
It said that as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had said at the European Parliament recently, “the events in the Sea of Azov are a demonstration of how instability and tensions are bound to rise when the basic rules of international co-operation are disregarded”.
“The construction of the Kerch Bridge took place without Ukraine’s consent and constitutes another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It has led, in parallel with the militarisation of the Azov Sea, to tougher controls on naval traffic in the strait. The European Union expects Russia to stop the inspections.
“The EU does not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia,” the EEAS said.
“Nato is closely monitoring developments in the Azov Sea and the Kerch strait, and we are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities. We call for restraint and de-escalation,” the alliance’s spokesperson Oana Lungescu said.
Nato said it “fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters”.
Russia should “ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea,” Nato said.
(Montage of photos of Ukrainian President Poroshenko and Russian President Putin: president.gov.ua, and kremlin.ru)