Russia wants to block sea areas near Crimea | Free press

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Russia plans to block sea areas in the Black Sea for several months. Only Russian territorial waters are affected, Moscow said. Russia has been harshly criticized for the project.

Moscow (dpa) – Accompanied by criticism from the West, Russia wants from today to close several sea areas in the Black Sea near the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, founded in 2014. Foreign warships and other government ships are not allowed to pass through these waters until October 31.

This was announced by the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. Cargo ships are excluded from the block. The area from the Crimean town of Sevastopol to Gurzuf would be affected.

Navigation through the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea to the Sea of ​​Azov, should not be affected. The strait is considered an international body of water. In November 2018, the Russian Coast Guard prevented two Ukrainian military ships from sailing there and arrested 24 Ukrainian sailors. They were not released until 2020.

Criticism of the announced closures came from the EU, Ukraine and NATO. The spokesman for the European Commission for External Relations, Peter Stano, called on Russia to halt the project. Stano told Russian state agency Tass it was a matter of “further violations of international law” and destabilizing the region.

There is concern in the West that the rights of passage enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea could be restricted and that international shipping might be hindered. NATO called on Russia to guarantee free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of ​​Azov and freedom of navigation.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry accused Russia of “increased escalation in the sea.” Moscow stressed that the affected areas were in Russian territorial waters. However, Russia’s claim to the areas is not recognized. A reason for the closures was initially not given.

In recent days, Russian soldiers have been conducting maneuvers in Crimea. Russian, as well as Ukrainian, troop marches had recently expressed international concern that fighting in the conflict zone of eastern Ukraine could escalate again. Yesterday, according to official information, Russia began to withdraw the troops that had been transferred to Crimea. Ukraine welcomed this.

For about seven years, parts of the eastern Ukrainian areas of Donetsk and Luhansk along the Russian border have been controlled by insurgents loyal to Moscow. The UN estimates that more than 13,000 people have died since the conflict broke out in 2014. A peace plan agreed in 2015 is on hold.

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