Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the UK Government’s assessment of Ukraine’s actions

Question: The UK Government openly distorts the circumstances of the incident in the Kerch Strait on 25 November. What do you think is the reason for that?

Answer: Unfortunately, the Ukrainian provocation in the Black Sea, as well as the general situation in the region, continues to be used by a number of Western countries, including the UK, to stir anti-Russian rhetoric. The details of the incident, most notably the blatant and deliberate violation of the territorial waters of the Russian Federation by the Ukrainian ships, are ignored by the UK Government. A number of British media outlets have also given a biased assessment of Russian actions in the Kerch Strait.

I would like to stress once again that the Kerch Strait is open to passage for any merchant ships heading to and from Russian and Ukrainian ports, as well as for Russian and Ukrainian warships. Taking into account the natural peculiarities of the strait, certain procedures exist for notification of passage and organization of pilotage. In general, they are similar to the pre-2014 order of ship passage. No problems were registered with the passage through the strait, including by the Ukrainian warships, either before or after the incident on 25 November.

Any allegations of “illegal inspections of Ukrainian ships by Russian border guards in the Sea of Azov” are also not true. Given the fact that the Sea of Azov has the status of internal waters of Russia and Ukraine, both states are entitled to conduct security checks of vessels in the relevant water area. The inspections carried out by the Russian Coast Guard in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait are legitimate, justified and non-discriminatory. 48% of the vessels inspected between April and October 2018, or 720 out of 1,492 vessels, were heading to or from Russian ports, while 52% were heading to or from Ukrainian ports. As a rule, such inspections do not take more than three hours and are carried out when vessels are waiting for their turn to sail via the Kerch-Yenikale Canal. Therefore, inspections cause no delays with crossing the strait.

Blaming Russia for an “escalation in the Sea of Azov”, London conceals the fact that on 25 November the Ukrainian side violated the Russian border in the place that had been Russian territory even before the events of 2014. The Ukrainians rejected an offer of pilotage and were treacherously heading towards into the Kerch Strait from the south. Two officers of the Ukrainian security service present aboard one of the ships, later admitted they had a special task to act the way they did.

Curiously enough, the incident in the Kerch Strait coincided with the aggravation of the situation in the Donbass as Kiev is pulling military equipment to the disengagement line. This is a direct violation of the Minsk Agreements by Ukraine, completely ignored by the UK. Moreover, London contributes to Kiev’s aggressive attitude by announcing the deployment of additional contingents of military instructors to Ukraine and, according to the BBC, groups of military propagandists from the British 77th Brigade.

The martial law imposed by the President of Ukraine on 28 November in 10 regions of Ukraine (almost half of the entire national territory), including Donbass, not only contradicts the letter and spirit of the Minsk Agreements, but also carries the threat of resuming full-scale hostilities. Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have acquired very broad powers, up to the seizure of property from the population. We have never heard any comment on these recent developments from the UK Government.

We regret that Kiev’s confrontational policy, which contradicts regional and international security interests, is supported by the UK Conservative Government, which uses every opportunity, however absurd, to maintain “pressure” on Russia.