Kyiv: The Sunday military attack undertaken by Russia against the Ukrainian ships with the further capture of the crew, as well as the declaration of martial law in ten border regions of Ukraine, continues to remain at the center of European and world interest.
The natural desire of Ukrainian naval sailors is to strengthen their presence in the Sea of Azov, in the region of the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, which are strategically important for Ukraine, does not contradict either Articles 17 and 38 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Article 2 of the Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. cooperation in the use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, now the Russian side is interpreted solely as a provocation from Kyiv.
The FNI agency asked Valery Kravchenko, a senior researcher at the Department for Foreign Policy and International Security Problems of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, to comment on such a backlash .
-Valery, on Monday in an extraordinary mode with the Azov agenda, met not only the Ukrainian parliament, but also the Ukraine-NATO commission, the OSCE PA, and finally the UN Security Council. How would you describe the attitude of the world community to the conflict near the Kerch Strait? In other words, does our diplomacy beat the more experienced and numerous Russian's?
There is a reaction, it's predominantly pro-Ukrainian. Nevertheless, the first response of our US strategic partner was not so obvious to me. At the beginning, Trump and Pompeo were generally recommended to put Poroshenko and Putin at the table - let them say they are negotiating with each other. But will it be meaningful, under equal international conditions, one and the same victim and aggressor should be planted without the censure of the latter? It seems to me that this is unacceptable for Ukraine proposal.
Well, this is the first reaction of the White House. Trump often changes his mind. And here, the very next day, he said that he was expecting from his national security team a “full report” in connection with the incident with the attack and the seizure of Ukrainian sailors in the Sea of Azov, which would be “crucial” in his desire to meet with Putin in Argentina on the margins of the G20 summit. So we will follow together the transformation of the official American position. What is your assessment of the extraordinary thematic meeting of the UN Security Council?
- It seems that everything was going through a routine: they met, dictated and they dispersed. Nevertheless, it is precisely on such routine measures for staff diplomats (albeit with an alarming agenda) that we consistently make it clear to the world: what actually happens at our borders and in this particular case - clearly articulated its position, since some foreign politicians and diplomats are there, there were still some illusions about the goals of Russia and the way they were implemented, which the Kremlin used. And what happened in Kerch could, in a similar format, happen, say, in the waters of the Baltic Sea, in an immediate proximity to the Baltic states that are part of NATO.
On the one hand, there is a brutal behavior of the FSB of the Russian Federation. But Russia always behaves in the most arrogant and insolent way, as a strong actor, and we should have expected such a reaction, especially on September 23, under the arch of the Kerch bridge, our Donbass warship, expropriated by Russians in Crimea in 2014, entered the Azov, but in two years, was yet to be transferred to the Ukrainian side.
And if we strive to respond symmetrically to the Russian militarization of Azov, at the moment it is compelled to state that in the water area of this sea there really are not enough ships of our Navy and three boats of the class "Gyurza" and "Brilliant" would not have impeded Mariupol. Especially since with Don, Russia is constantly moving its ships to Azov. Tension has increased. And the naval landing in the Berdyansk region is quite a realistic scenario for the further development of events.
Based on the international maritime law and on the 2003 treaty, the passage of our ships to the Sea of Azov is a completely acceptable and legitimate event, but after 2014, de facto, such maneuvers also contain a certain risk. Indeed, besides international law, there is what is called real politics. Therefore, to a certain extent, the “last throw” of our ships from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov can be further interpreted as a kind of testing of the red lines, although we could assume that this time Russia will not allow our sailors to pass under the arch.
If they gave passage to our courts this time, it would mean that they did not have a situational plan to organize provocations against us right now. But as time goes on, Azov freezes, and the winter period is not very conducive to carrying out the same hypothetical landing operation.
And on the other hand, we are also expecting the "Islands" that Americans have given us in the spring. Therefore, a possible calculation was made for the fact that after the current autumn "Gyurzy" in the spring the mentioned escort frigates overseas would pass.
- By the way, at the end of October the Russian delegation came to Kyiv, with the intention to use our power to divide fishing quotas in the Sea of Azov. But thanks to the protests of the public, the “30th session of the Russian-Ukrainian commission on fisheries in the Sea of Azov” was forced to curtail its work. How do you think the actions of our activists were justified?
-Of course, it's impossible to negotiate with the aggressor. After Russia violated the 1997 Great Agreement, we had to denounce it, and all disputable shipping issues were to be checked against international maritime law.
-I think that it was time for us to break diplomatic relations with the aggressor country. And even though the head of our Foreign Ministry, Pavel Klimkin, asserts that they don't have de facto for us, but symbols only demoralize the public. Indeed, other countries reacted more clearly and sharply, even with less precedents than the one that happened with us.
- On Monday, a compromise was reached between domestic security officials and parliamentarians regarding the military situation, which from today’s date is being introduced for a month in 10 regions of the country. This fact was immediately overgrown with not only caustic comments from Russian propagandists, but also a game of conspiracy among a large part of domestic experts. How would you rate this like-mindedness?
-Yes, yesterday we heard a lot of accusations against the President regarding the usurpation of power, and regarding the restriction of human rights. I am sure that the Head of the State had good reasons for such a step, and the election calculations are not the main thing here. Most likely, intelligence about the significant concentration of troops along our border is not a fantasy.
Moreover, the potential threat may not be the only scenario of the navy mentioned by me, but also the attack of an expanded group from the North or from Transnistria, therefore, a military position is being introduced in the Vinnytsia region. In addition, "to cut the window on the Crimea by land" - it has always been considered one of the alleged plans of the aggressor.
In my opinion, it would not be superfluous to have a monthly introduction of military status in the territory of Ternopil and Rovno regions, where the Pochaevskaya Lavra is located. In the context of the fact that Ukrainian Orthodoxy can get Tomos from Constantinople to create autocaphalia, Moscow may decide on certain provocations in this region.
In any case, I am sure that the introduction of martial law, albeit limited in territory and time, will contribute to strengthening the national security of the country.