Russia’s “hard power” activity in the Azov Sea has increased significantly since May 2018, when the authorities officially opened the Kerch Strait Bridge they had been building since the illegal annexation of Crimea (UNIAN, May 15, 2018). Immediately, experts identified Moscow’s bridge building project as, in part, a deliberate “access limitation” operation. Moreover, both during the construction phase and since completion, it was accompanied by frequent freedom-of-navigation restrictions (“access denial” – see below), including systematic Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Coast Guard boarding and inspections of merchant vessels traveling through the Kerch Strait to and from Berdyansk and Mariupol, the Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea. Some of these incidents occurred only 5-7 miles from the Ukrainian coast and lasted up to 28-57 hours before the vessels were allowed to depart on their way (see EDM, June 11, 2018; Blackseanews.net, December 15, 2020).
Russia’s strategy in the Azov Sea: the Kerch bridge, artificial shipping delays and continued harm to Ukraine
By Staff6 Mins Read