NATO today expressed “unrest” related to naval maneuvers around Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, and demanded that Russia guarantee “free access” to Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea.
We ask Russia to guarantee free access to Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea and allow freedom of navigation, “said an Alliance spokeswoman in a statement.
The text considers that the restriction of access to certain areas of the Black Sea and the Kerch Strait [which unites it to the Sea of Azov] “would constitute an unjustified action” and would reveal “a destabilizing behavior on the part of Russia”.
The NATO spokeswoman called for an “immediate reduction in escalation” in Moscow in this region, again marked by strong tensions.
Russia will limit the navigation of foreign military ships and state-owned vessels in the three areas of Crimea until October, with one located off Kerch, the Russian Ministry of Defense said today.
This area is the most controversial because the passage between the Black and Azov seas is crucial for exports of cereals or steel produced in Ukraine.
Several frictions have already occurred in the Kerch Strait, claimed by Moscow following the annexation of Crimea.
In 2018, Russia seized three Ukrainian military ships.
Russian-Ukrainian tensions have been worsening for several weeks, with Ukraine accusing Moscow of looking for a pretext to invade the country, and Russia accusing Kyiv of preparing an offensive against Russian-speaking separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In NATO’s perspective, Moscow’s naval maneuvers and the strengthening of the Russian military presence in Crimea “constitute new threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermine the stability of the region as a whole”.
Source: with Agencies