Russia attacks in the Azov Sea: what we know so far. LIVE

Russia attacks in the Azov Sea: what we know so far. LIVE
November 26, 2018.

Russia has provoked a conflict with Ukraine in the Kerch Strait. In the morning on November 25 a motor boat of the Russian Federation’s coast guard rammed a Ukrainian tugboat (video). In the evening following long-standing blocking of Ukrainian ships Russian vessels opened fire towards them. These actions come as most aggressive in the Azov Sea since the escalation started. UCMC is following the developments. We’ll keep you updated with information from trusted sources.

Key facts at a glance

At night between November 24 and 25 three Ukrainian vessels – two small armored artillery motor boats “Berdyansk” and “Nikopol” as well as a tow boat “Yany Kapu” left the port of Odesa headed towards the port of Mariupol. On their way the Russian motor boat of the coast guard “Don” rammed the Ukrainian tow boat. Video. Later in the day Ukrainian vessels were fired upon, six marines were wounded.

Ukraine’s Parliament cast 276 votes to support the introduction of martial law. Martial law will come into effect on November 28, will last 30 days and will cover not the entire territory of Ukraine but 10 regions bordering on Russia and Transnistria.

At the same time the MPs voted to have the date of the Presidential elections scheduled for March 31, 2019.

President Petro Poroshenko decided to change his decree on martial law, reducing his term from 60 to 30 days.

He stated this during a video talk about the military situation.

“National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine has recommended today to introduce a martial law for 60 days. I want to declare my decision: I will propose to the Parliament to introduce a martial law for 30 days,” Poroshenko said.

He explained his decision by the fact that he does not want “a martial law not to be imposed on the beginning of the election campaign for a day.”

“To those, who worry about their party or their political interests more than the nation and Ukrainian interest, there is now no reason for dirty political speculations and insinuations,” Poroshenko said.

He stressed that “the martial law will last for 30 days and will end in mid-December.”

It is planned to launch it from November 28.

Regions under martial law starting November 28

Statements made by Ihor Voronchenko, Commander of the Ukrainian Naval Forces made at a joint press briefing with the Foreign Affairs Minister Klimkin in Kyiv.

Ukraine had notified in advance on its vessels entering the 12-mile zone and on the planned crossing of the Kerch Strait.

There were no attempts to provoke on the Ukrainian side. Ukrainian military are in possession of the audio evidence of how Ukrainian marines were responding. All footage will be passed to the court.

Ukrainian vessels were not provoking neither the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation nor the Russian motor boats. Two Ukrainian armored motor boats and a tow boat that lost mobility were followed by 10 different vessels including the vessels of the Black Sea fleet and the motor boats of the Federal Security Service. There is an audio recording that captures the captain of the Ukrainian “Berdyansk” vessel telling the Russian side that he is not committing any illegal actions and is not pointing weapons at them. Fire for effect came as a response. Three persons were wounded with fragments, they are in a Kerch hospital.

Part of the audio and video footage is left on the motor boats.

Ukraine was considering the possibility of using its aviation against the aviation of the Russian Federation but did not do it understanding that there’s a large amount of antiaircraft defense systems deployed to the Crimean peninsula.

Radio communication between the Russian leadership and border guard ships

Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin gave a press-briefing. The position of the Foreign Affairs Ministry on the situation in the Azov Sea is as follows.

  1. Actions undertaken by the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait and in the Black Sea qualify as the use of force in the territory of Ukraine, they violate the basic provision of the international law stipulated by the part 4 of the Article 2 of the UN Charter.
  2. Actions undertaken by the Russian Federation in Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Black Sea and in the Kerch Strait qualify as usurpation of Ukraine’s sovereign rights guaranteed by the Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Russia is a party.
  3. Any references that the Russian Federation is making on the alleged violations of its state border are a priori illegitimate. Any claims on Ukraine’s territorial waters that the Russian Federation is putting forward were recognized illegitimate by the UN General Assembly, they have also become the reason for Ukraine and its partners including the US, the EU, Canada etc. to introduce counter measures against the Russian Federation.
  4. Actions undertaken by the Russian Federation violate the freedom of maritime navigation. The Articles 38 and 44 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea strictly prohibit to impede the peaceful transit across the Kerch Strait. To add, the Russian Federation is demonstrating through its actions the nullity of bilateral agreements on the Kerch Strait and the Azov Sea, as the Russian Federation had no intention to adhere to them. Thus, all the references that the Russian Federation is making on some ephemeral “common internal waters of Ukraine and Russia” are groundless.
  5. Actions undertaken by the Russian Federation deteriorate the legal dispute between Ukraine and the Russian Federation that has been subject to consideration by the respective international court since 2016. These actions contradict both the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the general international law.
  6. All the violations of the international law listed above will be considered by the UN Security Council.
  7. In accordance with the UN Charter Ukraine will be seeking ways for a peaceful resolution of the dispute as foreseen by the Article 33 of the Charter. It also preserves the possibility of applying its right of self-defense as stipulated by the Article 51 of the Charter.
  8. Furthermore in accordance with the international law provisions on the responsibility that the states bear for violations of the international law, Ukraine will be applying counter measures and is calling upon the international community to exercise the measures of pressure upon Russia so that it lives up to its commitments.
  9. As to the status of the captured crews, according to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 they are prisoners of war and the Russian Federation must adhere to the responsibilities as per the Convention. We are working with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
  10. Martial law conditions will be defined at the parliamentary meeting based on the legislation in force and the scale of the actual threat.

12:30 The fate of the captured Ukrainian marines remains unknown

The Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmyla Denysova demands from her Russian colleague Tatiana Moskalkova information on the actual state and whereabouts of the captured Ukrainian marines.

Later the Ukrainian Ombudswoman quoted Moskalkova saying that the Ukrainian marines are in Kerch.

“They are currently being interrogated by a detective of the border guard directorate of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. She said three Ukrainian marines are at the Kerch hospital no.1. Their condition was classified as not critical. Moskalkova has reassured me that all the necessary assistance was provided to them and there is no threat to their lives now,” Denysova wrote.

During the extraordinary meeting of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine the General Staff Head Viktor Muzhenko said that a total of 23 persons were on board of the seized Ukrainian vessels. The fate of the marines on board of the vessels of the Ukrainian Naval Forces that were seized by the Russian side is unknown to Ukraine.

Crimea-based media released a photo of the captured Ukrainian motor boats moored in the Kerch port.

Around 8:30 a.m.

In clear violation of the UN convention on the Law of the Sea as well as the 2003 agreement between Russia and Ukraine on joint use of the sea of Azov, Russian border guards begin to aggressively intimidateUkrainian ships. Russian patrol boats, type “Sobol”, search and rescue intelligence ship “Don”, boats of “Mangust” type, search ship “Suzdalets” approach the Ukrainian navy group. “Don” ramsthe Ukrainian tugboat “Yany Kapu”, damaging its main engine, shell plating and guard rail. A life raft of the tug islost. Russian dispatchers continue to ignore Ukrainian navy messages,trying tonotify on the planned passing through the Kerch strait.

4:07 a.m. Ukrainian navy intercepts conversation of a dispatcher of “Kerch” port informing the Russian navy ship “Suzdalets” onUkrainian navy ships in the strait. “Kerch” and “Kavkaz” ports continue to totallyignore Ukrainian navy requests in the radio wave.

3:58 a.m. According to international rules ofthesea navigation safety, small armored artillery boat of Ukrainian navy “Berdyansk” is calling the coastal post of the Russian FSBborder guards, as well as ports “Kerch” and “Kavkaz”dispatchersand informs about its intent to pass the Kerch strait. It receives no answer.

00:25 a.m. President of Ukraine Poroshenko stated that he supports the suggestion of the Military Cabinet to introduce martial law resulting from the attack by the Russian Federation on Ukrainian vessels in proximity to the Kerch Strait. Poroshenko made the respective statement during the emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council.

The suggestion on the introduction of martial law now needs to be considered by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament). The extraordinary parliamentary meeting on that is to take place on November 26 or 27 behind the closed doors.

According to President Poroshenko martial law:

Does not imply that Ukraine will be holding offensive operations. Instead the Armed Forces will be only defending their territory.

Does not imply the disposition change at the contact line in Donbas or in other parts of the country.

Does not foresee immediate military mobilization. Poroshenko called only first-line reserve to be on alert.

Does not foresees limits to citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms.

Does not mean that Ukraine will give up the peaceful resolution of the conflict with the Russian Federation in Donbas.

National Security and Defense Council suggested to the President introducing martial law for 60 days, the Head of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksandr Turchynov said.

23:25 The military cabinet called by the President of Ukraine stated: “The attack of the Russian military upon Ukrainian vessels is an act of military aggression,” said Oleksandr Turchynov, Head of the National Security and Defense Council

22:35 Six Ukrainian servicemen are wounded as a result of the shooting attack upon the Ukrainian motor boats, Ukraine’s Naval Forces reported. As of 22:20 the Russian side seized the motor boat “Berdyansk” and the tow boat “Yany Kapu”. “Nikopol” motor boat is blocked and is moving escorted by Russian vessels. It is not known where the vessels are headed.

What we know several hours after the Ukrainian motor boats were fired upon by Russian vessels:

  • Six Ukrainian marines are wounded. Unofficial reports say two of them are in a critical condition.
  • Russian special forces seized three Ukrainian vessels. The tug boat and one of the motor boats are damaged and are being towed. Another motor boat is blocked by Russian vessels.
  • President Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the military cabinet. In the morning Ukrainian diplomats will start to Berlin to discuss the situation with international partners.
  • Ukraine’s Security Service and the Office of the Prosecutor General started a case on Russia waging an aggressive war.
  • NATO and EU have condemned Russia’s actions in the Azov Sea.

Main messages of the Russian propaganda regarding the crisis in the Kerch Strait, close to annexed Crimea, can be divided into two main groups: those directly concerning the seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and those on the wider political situation.

            Key points for Group 1 are as follows:

  • Allegedly, Ukraine has not warned Russia about the ships’ movement beforehand and the ships seized performed dangerous maneuvers in the Russian waters;
  • It is claimed that the Ukrainian boats received a warning that they chose to ignore;
  • Soldiers are lightly wounded and their lives are not under the threat

Key points for Group 2:

  • Ukraine has violated the territorial waters of Russian Federation;
  • This “provocation” is solely aimed at imposing martial law in Ukraine and, henceforth, cancelling the elections with the President Petro Poroshenko being a main beneficiary;
  • Alleged “provocation” as well as the possible imposing of the martial law have to be coordinated with the USA
  • Supposedly, Ukraine has started heavy shelling of the residential areas in Donetsk region.

            All these messages serve reaching several goals that Russia tries to promote both at home and abroad:

  1. It was Ukraine that violated international maritime law, not Russia that has acted within its authority;
  2. The idea that Crimea belongs to Russia is emphasized via action, with Kremlin demonstrating that Russia is not willing to let the territories it occupied go peacefully but is ready to raise the stakes;
  3. Ukraine is once more depicted as being heavily dependent on the US, whose image of the actual enemy is reinforced again;
  4. Ukrainian politicians supposedly are only protecting their position in power, not the national interests;
  5. Alleged “heavy shelling” with no proof serves as a distraction for public and a tool to portray Ukraine in a negative light.

Additionally, Kremlin bots are active the social networks, pushing the message that the crisis in Kerch Strait demonstrates weakness of the Ukrainian navy and strength of the Russian forces thus twisting the violation of maritime law into the matter of national pride.

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