- Why Russia and Ukraine cannot “divide” the Sea of Azov: answering the main questions
By sending the command ship “Donbas” to the Kerch Strait and the Crimean Bridge, Ukraine again staged a provocation, as in 2018. Kyiv, however, believes that “everything was according to the law.” In the capital, the Square does not want to reckon with the realities in any way. First of all, with the fact that in 2014 Crimea became Russian, that after that the status of the Sea of Azov radically changed. And this promises both new quarrels between Kyiv and Moscow, and new provocations of the Ukrainians. The problem is extremely complex and confusing. The Sea of Azov is increasingly turning into a “hot spot”. Why did it happen?
Is it possible to avoid conflicts that smell of gunpowder and human blood? These and other questions are answered by kp.ru military observer Viktor Baronets.
1. How and what was the regulation of relations between Ukraine and Russia in the Sea of Azov before the Crimean spring of 2014?
Until 2014, the Russian-Ukrainian Agreement of 2003 on the joint use of the Sea of Azov by Ukraine and Russia was in force. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in 2015 denounced this Agreement on cooperation in the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. But the 2003 Treaty did not provide for denunciation. And the Vienna Convention of International Treaties of 1969 states: “If the treaty does not contain the norms of denunciation, such a treaty cannot be denounced unilaterally.” Unilateral cancellation of the agreement is a gross violation of international law. But Kyiv obviously did not give a damn about it.
2. Why did Kyiv agree to denounce the Treaty?
In order to break the compromise reached and “appropriate” the Sea of Azov. Or to consolidate positions that are advantageous only to him. Russia, of course, does not agree with this approach. Negotiations on dividing lines have been going on for many years, and so far the parties have not reached a compromise. Each side stubbornly stands on its own. Russia is not going to appropriate the entire Azov Sea. So far, there is only an “imaginary line” of delimitation of water space between countries. We are not engaged in the fishing of water resources, we do not extract mineral resources in the Ukrainian part. Kyiv is not happy with the fact that the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait is declared the historical internal waters of Russia and Ukraine. Kyiv wants all this to belong only to him. In addition, Kyiv does not recognize Crimea as Russian.
3. What “rules of conduct” for Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov were stipulated by the Treaty of 2003?
In this document, both sides noted the importance of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait for the economic development of the two countries and agreed that all issues related to this water area “should be resolved only by peaceful means jointly or with the consent of Russia and Ukraine.” In the Treaty itself, it was determined that the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait are historically the internal waters of Russia and Ukraine, and their delimitation should be carried out only by mutual agreement. BUT there is still no such agreement.
Commercial, military, and other ships and vessels flying the flag of the Russian Federation and Ukraine enjoy the freedom of navigation in this water area. Merchant ships flying the flags of third countries can also enter the Sea of Azov and pass through the strait if they are heading to or returning from a Russian or Ukrainian port. Moreover, warships or other ships of third countries can enter the Sea of Azov and pass through the Kerch Strait to the port of one of the parties only after agreement with both parties. And with a preliminary application for passage. Which, by the way, happened many times and did not give rise to conflicts. But after 2015, this document ceased to be valid. And autumn. In 2018, Ukraine staged a well-known provocation with an attempt to break through the strait of three of its warships …
4. And where is the Russian-Ukrainian border in the Sea of Azov now?
Even after the conclusion of the 2003 Treaty, the official delimitation of the border along the Sea of Azov between Russia and Ukraine was never carried out. The negotiations were endless, but the parties could not decide exactly where the state border should pass. For example, Russia proposed the delimitation of the Kerch Strait along the fairway – the Kerch-Yenikalsky Canal, which runs west of Tuzla. Kyiv, on the other hand, insisted on dividing along the administrative border that divided the countries during the Soviet era. This border, according to the Ukrainian version, ran east of Tuzla. Although, as pointed out by the Russian side, the internal borders in the USSR were not drawn by water. In 2006, the Ukrainian side actively promoted the idea of recognizing this water area not as internal, but as international waters. But the Russian side did not agree with this approach.
5. How has the situation changed in the Sea of Azov after the return of Crimea to Russia?
The situation has changed radically. A number of Russian experts have suggested that now Russia can claim not 50, but 70-80% of the Azov Sea. Well, the Kerch Strait became the territorial waters of Russia. It turns out that the existence of the 2003 treaty in such circumstances was more advantageous for Ukraine. Nevertheless, it was the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada who put forward a proposal to denounce it. A natural question arises: “Why did they need this?”