The maritime incident that occurred on November 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait – connecting the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea – is considered by those involved, by all European governments, and others as a very grave incident. Although it may be mistaken for a simple misunderstanding of navigation law between neighboring nations, it was, instead, the first direct – though limited – confrontation between Russian armed forces and the Ukrainian navy.
The Russian military, with the support of the Federal Services for Security of the Russian Federation (FSB), opened fire on three Ukrainian naval ships trying to cross the Strait en route to the Port of Mariupol. In the exchange, Ukraine states that six sailors suffered light injuries, though Moscow contests it was only three. The ships were then inspected and seized by the Russians, who took the 25 sailors on board and the three ships into custody.
To fully appreciate the severity of this event, it has to be considered in light of the tension that has existed between Moscow and Kiev since 2014 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This is compounded by the outbreak of a long war – though undeclared as such – between two pro-Russian regions (self-proclaimed Autonomous Republics) in Eastern Ukraine; a conflict which has already caused approximately 11,000 deaths.
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