In another move in its dispute with Ukraine over the fate of areas inhabited by ethnic Russians in the east of the country, Moscow has decided to close part of the Black Sea to foreign warships.
The announcement was made on Friday (15), after the Ukrainian navy warned that Russian boats were taking position near the Crimean Bridge, the gigantic structure that Vladimir Putin built to connect the attached peninsula in 2014 to his country.
On its eastern shore, Crimea is washed by the Sea of Azov, a stretch of the Black Sea which in the so-called Kerch Strait has the 19 km star-shaped bridge.
“From 9 p.m. on April 24 to 9 p.m. on October 31, the passage of foreign military or state ships will be suspended,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
It is a recipe for confusion. In addition to Crimea and Russia further east, the sea bathes a considerable part of the Ukrainian coast, with central ports for the export of the country’s steel and grain. Kiev fears that these ships will be affected by the measures.
The restrictions will also occur elsewhere in Crimea, such as in the city of Sevastopol, which already hosted the Russian Black Sea Fleet even before its annexation, by means of an agreement.
With this, he also wants to limit the movements of NATO ships (alliance of Western militias), which frequently operate in the region in support of the Ukrainians and in coordination with the Turks, who control the connection between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean .
For Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, the decision “usurps the sovereignty” of the country and violates international laws on maritime transit.
Confusions are old acquaintances in this region. In 2018, Russia seized three Ukrainian military ships in the Sea of Azov, and a Russian ship was boarded the following year.
But the move now comes against the backdrop of the dispute over Donbass, a region experiencing an unstable ceasefire in its civil war that began in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea to prevent the pro-Western government that overthrown pro-Moscow in Kiev to be absorbed into NATO.
After Ukraine strengthened its positions around rebel pockets, the Russians concentrated more than 80,000 troops on the borders with the neighbor and in the Crimea.
The tension generated an escalation of rhetoric with the West and a series of provocative military exercises from side to side.
On Thursday, two days after calling Putin on the phone for a summit, US President Joe Biden determined the toughest sanctions against Russia since 2018.
They include, in addition to the expulsion of diplomats accused of espionage, economic measures aimed at restricting negotiations with Russian state bonds. In practice, most of them are manageable.
On Friday, the Kremlin said it reserves the right to retaliate to the same extent, as is customary, but who will make the final decision will be Putin.
“Clearly they [Putin e Biden] differ in understanding how to build a mutually beneficial relationship while taking into account the interests of the other, “said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman. He said that” our counterparts’ obsession with sanctions Americans remains unacceptable “.
China, Russia’s ally in the United Nations Security Council and fervent critic of the economic sanctions it receives from the United States due to the restriction of Hong Kong’s autonomy, has defended Putin. “[As medidas] they constitute a policy of brute force and hegemonic “harassment”, “said Chinese Chancellery spokesman Zhao Lijian.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski traveled to Paris to seek the support of his colleague Emmanuel Macron.
French and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was urged by Peskov to convince the Ukrainian to seek a diplomatic solution to the dispute. Germany and France have entered into several energy deals with the Russians and have sought to support the introduction of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to the continent.
In the war of versions, Putin wants to impose on Zelensky the sin of having started the crisis. And he seeks the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which in their second version of 2015 bring the rebel areas back to Kiev, but keep them autonomous, ensuring the separation from the West desired by Putin.