current affairs kerch strait

Russia-Ukraine Standoff Near the Kerch Strait

Russian Armed Forces captured 3 Ukrainian Naval Ships in Kerch Strait near the Azov Sea.

About:
• Russia recently captured three Ukrainian Naval Ships and over 20 crew members in the disputed Azov Sea claiming violation of Russian Territorial Waters.
Enhanced Tension: This led to rapid escalation in tensions in Eastern Europe 4 years after the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.

• This comes in the backdrop of Russia’s new bridge over the Kerch Strait, opened in May, and tightening its grip on Crimea.

Background:
Reason of dispute between Russia-Ukraine: In November 2013, Maidan Square protests took place in Ukraine demanding integration with Europe.
Russia became wary of an idea of closer integration between Ukraine and Western Nations.
Crimean Invasion: It was the prelude to Russia’s invasion of
Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
It resulted into 10,000 deaths and displacement of millions of people.
The 2014-15 Minsk peace accords prohibited air strikes and heavy artillery firing.
But, there is no solution as of now.
European powers are divided: Now, even European countries are also divided. Some are calling for trade sanctions against Russia while others called for more diplomatic engagement.

Why Russia’s Move is illegal?
• The site of arrest’s coordinates released by the Russian Armed Forces and Ukraine confirm that the Russian attack happened in international waters near the Kerch Strait.
• A 2003 Russia-Ukraine Treaty stipulates unimpeded access to the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov.
• Ukraine calls it Russian aggression, because the Black Sea is free for shipping.

Impact on Global Peace:
Potential to ignite a large scale conflict: It is the most dangerous clash at sea off Crimea since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014, thus it has potential to create instability in Eastern Europe.
NATO interference demanded: Ukraine urged NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov, warning of a threat of Russian invasion.
Imposition of Martial Law: Ukraine has put its border regions under martial law until 26 December and barred Russian men aged 16-60 from entering, except for “humanitarian cases”.

Global Response:

• UN Security Council called on Moscow and Kiev to de-escalate tensions.

• NATO reiterated its commitment for Stability in Eastern Europe and asked Russian Government to release the arrested Ukrainians.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
• It is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries.
• The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.
• NATO constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party.
• NATO’s Headquarters are located in Brussels, Belgium.
• Latest Additions to NATO: Montenegro, Albania and Croatia.
Sea of Azov:
• It is linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch (about 4 km) to the Black sea.
• The sea is bounded in the northwest by Ukraine and in the southeast by Russia.

Conclusion:
• The need is greater diplomatic engagement of USA and its NATO Partners with Russia rather than economic sanctions. Only this can ensure long lasting peace in the region.