Ukraine Accuses Russia of Shutting Off Black Sea Access, Harassing Ships

Russia has shut off access to the Black Sea and is harassing Ukrainian warships amid Moscow’s wider military buildup in the area, Ukraine said Thursday, The Moscow Times reports.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Russia will close from next week until October parts of the Black Sea toward the narrow Kerch Strait, which connects southern Russia to annexed Crimea, for military drills.

“Russia’s actions are another attempt in violation of the norms and principles of international law to usurp Ukraine’s sovereign rights as a coastal state,” it said.

Moscow has not yet commented on either claims of closures or obstructions.

Russia is able to control access between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov with a recently built bridge that straddles the Kerch Strait. Tensions escalated there in 2018-19 after Russia parked a giant cargo ship under the bridge and captured three Ukrainian naval ships, wounding several sailors.

Also on Thursday, Ukraine’s military accused Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) boats of attempting to block its vessels.

“Russian FSB boats once again attempted to obstruct the legitimate actions of the Ukrainian Navy’s boat group on combat duty tonight,” it said.

“Despite the Russians’ provocations and the targeted actions, the Ukrainian Navy submarine tactical group continued to perform its tasks.”