The passing week is comparable to The Ninth Wave by Aivazovsky: our ships were fired in the Kerch Strait, 23 sailors were captured, and politicians now compete for the title of the “virtual defender of the fatherland”. European leaders are already arguing whether sanctions against the Russian Federation are appropriate. Is there a glimmer of the sun in this storm – read in the traditional digest of Opinion.
Ivan Aivazovsky is one of the most outstanding seascape painters. He was born and almost all his life spent in Crimea. Now the battles scenes of his works are relevant as hell – because around the peninsula, there is a real fight of the entire civilized world.
On November 25, Russian border guards fired Ukrainian military ships in the Kerch Strait and seized two small armoured gunboats “Berdiansk” and “Nikopol” and a harbour tug “Yany Kapu”, together with 24 sailors, 3 of which, according to information affirmed by Russians, were injured.
Borys Babin, the Presidential representative of Ukraine in Crimea, said, “Russians not only rammed the Ukrainian Naval Forces’ tug, which led to the control loss but also blocked all the ships of the group so that they could not provide assistance to the tug. Russian ships provoked Ukrainian naval forces’ vessels to open fire”.
They and helicopters KA-52 fired uncontrolled missiles on our ships.
“Ukrainian ships became targets, on which Russian soldiers boldly worked out their skills in using different types of weapons”, said Oleh Frolov, the deputy head of the SBU.
Frolov is convinced, that “the fact, that Ukrainian soldiers survived is a miracle because they suffered six different attacks”.
“Namely: the ram of Ukrainian harbor tug ‘Yany Kapu’ by the Russian ship ‘Don’ of the Russian FSB border control, the combat use of two missiles by the Russian fighter aircraft Su-30, the combat use of two missiles by the Russian attack helicopter Ka-52, the use of large-caliber naval artillery by Russians – fire was directed at the deck-house where the sailors stayed, the combat assault of Ukrainian seamen by a special forces with the use of physical violence”, Frolov told.
The sixth type of violence continues today – physical and psychological pressure and unlawful arrest of 24 Ukrainian servicemen, refusal of the access and the suppression of the information on 3 wounded servicemen health status. These are the crews of two Ukrainian armoured gunboats “Berdiansk” and “Nikopol” and a harbour tug “Yany Kapu”, which on November 25 travelled from Odessa to Mariupol. According to the Naval Forces of Ukraine, this raid was planned and was conducted in compliance with all international norms.
Ukrainian ships seized by Russia near the Kerch Strait were transported to Kerch together with the crew.
The next day, Russian mass media spread information, that three wounded Ukrainian sailors: Andrii Artemenko, Vasyl Soroka and Andrii Eider are in Kerch city hospital №1.
The decision is the same for all three seamen – an arrest for 2 months until January 25.
Russia has decided to make the border violators out of Ukrainian sailors. Consequently, all the events in the Russian courts will be held in accordance with the criminal process.
All the seamen were charged with “the illegal crossing of the border committed by a group of individuals in collusion or by an organized group with the use of violence or the threat of its use”.
The extreme penalty under this article is 6 years of prison.
Ukrainian seamen who were seized in the Black Sea and arrested in the occupied Simferopol are taken from Crimea to Moscow. Most likely, it is there that they will be judged. However, how many seamen have already been sent out of the Crimea is not specified.
After that, the president Petro Poroshenko issued a decree on imposing of martial law in Ukraine until December 26, and the Verkhovna Rada approved it.
The martial law is imposed in 10 regions of Ukraine: Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia, Luhansk, Donetsk, Sumy, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Vinnitsia.
A circus or a victory of democracy? Thoughts vary. Many experts say that Poroshenko wanted to usurp power, delay elections and draw the attention to his person – as a “defender of the Fatherland”. Others say that politicians, opposite to the president were ready to fight not to let his rating rise in this crisis.
However, this martial law is really strange. No mobilization, no restrictions, the borders will be open, and the media will work without restrictions (according to the president). The question arises: how will this law solve the conflict in the Sea of Azov?
The situation has already been used by “clear minds” at the local level. In Odesa, the head of the regional police Dmytro Holovin has already offered to limit the sale of alcohol. Some people want to “play the usurper”, but how the “prohibition of alcohol” will raise the defensive capability of Odesa? Hey, maybe it’s better to stop bringing pressure to activists and hit squads to really dangerous places? To the border with the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic and so on.
By the way, talking about the borders. This conflict clearly put everything in its places: who is a friend, who does not care, and who… supports Russia.
The Baltic states immediately supported Ukraine and made quite strong statements. Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid even called on the world to recognize the Ukrainian ships’ seizing by Russia as a war in Europe, and on Wednesday the country called the Russian ambassador to hear the explanation of the crisis in Azov.
Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic also condemned Russian aggression at the sea. But Slovaks and Hungarians (remember the story with passports and attempt to take Zakarpattia) refrained from making any statements.
But collectively, the EU and NATO supported Ukraine. The collective European mind is for Ukraine and so far it is enough.
While European partners one by one supported Ukraine, the United States Department of State and the White House were silent. True, there were statements by Kurt Volker, who excluded the provocations from the Ukrainian side, as well as the assurances of the United States Permanent Representative in the United Nations, Nikki Haley, that the US was “highly worried”, but this “highest level” itself was not in a hurry with conclusions.
But in the end, the United States implicitly supported Ukraine.
Will there be any kind of support from Western partners? Let us remember the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances and have no illusions. Only the old Ukrainian saying is worth taking to heart: “Respect each other, we worth it”
Text by Kostyantyn Rul