Black Sea Crisis Update

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International attention is centering on the Black Sea region following Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships at the entrance to the Sea of Azov. The incident is in the process of blossoming into a crisis, and there is no sign of it coming to an end anytime soon. Relations between Russia and Ukraine were already at an all-time low before Sunday’s seizure. Now they appear poised to deteriorate even further as the prospect of a larger conflict looms in the distance if the current crisis is not deescalated soon.

On Monday martial law was officially imposed on 10 of the nation’s 27 regions, mainly those with areas bordering Russia. President Petro Poroshenko had issued a decree for a 30-day period of martial law after the seizure. He claims the measure will ‘strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities amid increasing aggression.’ Whether this is the case or not remains to be seen.

International reaction to the crisis has uniformly condemned Russia’s actions. There has also been talk of imposing fresh sanctions on Russia as punishment, however, so far nothing has come of it. Particularly strong condemnations came from the European Union, and the United States. At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called Sunday’s incident an ‘Outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.’ President Trump’s statement was somewhat more subdued, but he indicated he’s not happy what is events in the region. Trump is expected to meet with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin at the upcoming G20 Summit in Buenos Aires later this week. His refusal to openly condemn Russia’s actions now is likely a calculated move not to tip his hand before he sits down with Putin.

Along with the three ships, Russian security forces also took 24 Ukrainian sailors into custody. They are being held on Crimea. A court has ordered two of the sailors to be held for 60 days, according to media reports. Those sailors, as well as the rest, are being treated as criminals, not as prisoners of war. The Ukrainian government is calling for the immediate release of the sailors, and ships, though it seems unlikely that Kiev’s demands will produce the desired results anytime soon. If at all.

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