Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question on the situation in the Kerch Strait
Question: How would you comment on the statements by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan on the need to allow free passage through the Kerch Strait?
Answer: There is no logic in these statements by the UK Government. They are aimed purely at stoking anti-Russian sentiments. Until the deliberate provocation by Kiev on Sunday, there had been no problems with the passage of civilian or military ships, including Ukrainian ones, through the Kerch Strait. The so-called “obstacles” allegedly put by Russia were nothing but routine security checks and did not differ significantly from the inspection procedures used in the Strait by the Ukrainian authorities until 2014. The actions of the Russian border guards are not discriminatory: this year almost half of the checked vessels were heading to Russian ports on the Sea of Azov.
What happened on Sunday was caused by a gross violation by Ukrainian ships of the rules of innocent passage in the territorial waters of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea. Russia protested and demanded an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss the situation.
Russia has repeatedly warned the regime in Kiev and its Western patrons about the danger of blowing up hysteria in connection with the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. Clearly, this was a well-thought-out provocation aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in the area as well as a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia. At the same time Kiev continues to escalate military tensions along the disengagement line in Donbass, were shelling incidents are getting more and more frequent.
The current militarization is actively promoted by various Western consultants and instructors, including those from the UK. If London is really interested in normalizing the situation in Ukraine, it would be better to pay attention to the activity of rampant radical nationalists encouraged by the Ukrainian authorities, instead of building up military presence, albeit symbolic one. On Sunday, Ukrainian radicals have attacked Russia’s diplomatic missions. We have not heard anything from the Foreign Office on these incidents.
The UK Government should be aware that Kiev’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and several other Western states, seeking to provoke a conflict with Russia in the Black Sea, is fraught with serious consequences. The Russian Federation will firmly thwart any attempts to encroach upon its sovereignty and security.