05:29 GMT23 April 2021
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    Kerch Strait Row (59)

    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The standoff between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov provoked by the detention of three Ukrainian vessels for entering illegally the Russian territorial waters looks like a well-planned scenario, which might have been "encouraged" by the United States, experts told Sputnik.

    On Sunday, Ukraine's Berdyansk and Nikopol gunboats and the Yany Kapu tugboat illegally crossed the Russian maritime border. According to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the vessels sailed toward the Kerch Strait, the entrance to the Sea of Azov, and were seized by Russia after failing to respond to a demand to stop.

    As a response to the incident, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree declaring martial law in select regions of Ukraine that lie on the Russian border as well as the coasts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov for 30 days.

    Third Party's Possible Involvement

    The detained Ukrainian ships are delivered to the port of Kerch
    Press service of border management of FSB of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Crimea
    Experts said in their comments to Sputnik that Poroshenko was unlikely to go for the provocation without external support.

    'The Westerners, mainly the United States, who so far had not dared to defy Russia militarily in the Sea of Azov, obviously pushed Poroshenko on the offensive. Their hope was that Russia would respond militarily, which would make them the bad aggressors', French geopolitical specialist Jean-Paul Baquiast said.

    Belgian military expert Pierre Henrot agreed with his French colleague, saying that the incident indeed might have been inspired by Washington and sought to test Russia's resolve.

    READ MORE: Some West States Possibly Knew of Kerch Strait Provocation in Advance — Moscow

    'When Kiev sends three small naval vessels to cross the strait without warning Russia, it is a pure provocation or testing the Russian resolve. Has it been 'encouraged' by Washington? It is very possible. Militarizing the small Sea of Azov is a very bad idea that Moscow cannot accept. The Russian deep seawater fleet is in Sevastopol, in Crimea, since the time of the tsars and the Soviet Union', Henrot indicated.

    He also warned that any attempt to alter the situation might result in Moscow blocking of the port of Mariupol and recommended that Kiev should not disturb "the Russian bear."

    Appoaching Elections

    Some experts interviewed by Sputnik concurred that the incident might have been linked to the upcoming elections in the country and Poroshenko's desire to consolidate voters and increase approval rating.

    'A trigger for these incidents is the approach of the presidential election… in Ukraine scheduled for March 2019. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is a candidate for re-election, but his popularity is terribly low, around 8 per cent of favourable opinions! He very probably decided for the clash to enact martial law. This allows him to ban street protests, control the media and possibly postpone the elections', Baquiast suggested.

    Jaromir Kohlicek, a member of the EU Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, shared Baquiast's views.

    'I think it is a clear-cut provocation. I understand presidential elections in Ukraine are approaching. According to opinion polls actually [Yulia] Timoshenko is two times more popular than Poroshenko. How to change this state? The incident is the consequence of this reasoning. In Kiev battalion, Azov immediately responded;, Kohlicek said.

    READ MORE: Poroshenko Wants NATO to Send Warships to Black Sea After Kerch Strait Incident

    According to Nina Bashkatov, a professor of political sciences at the Liege University in Belgium, Poroshenko used his preferred method of fighting an external enemy.

    'President Poroshenko has built his career by presenting himself as a wall against Russia. The economic situation of Ukraine has degraded a lot and his poll ratings are very low at 5 per cent now. That is why he more often appears in the uniform of the commander in chief. He is put in difficulty by the ultra-nationalists, and parliament has not followed him in all his requests about martial law. The elections are confirmed for March 31', Bashkatov stated.

    Bashkatov also did not rule out the possibility that the provocation in the Kerch Strait sought to tarnish the upcoming meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump and to prevent the possible rapprochement of the two leaders.

    'This Kerch Strait incident has come at the right time to poison the G20 meeting, where Trump and Putin will meet at the coming weekend. This has the flavour of a tactical provocation, conceived to make any rapprochement between the superpowers impossible', Bashkatov believed.

    READ MORE: Kerch Strait Incident Not Changing Germany's Stance on Nord Stream-2 — Berlin

    She added that he believed that Europe was ready to believe in anything that comes from Kiev.

    Belgian lawmaker Filip Dewinter, for his part, expressed hope that the incident in the Sea of Azov would open the eyes of the European politicians and demonstrate the risks of military cooperation with Ukraine.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Kerch Strait Row (59)


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    Independent EU Mediation Needed to Solve Incidents Like Kerch Strait Clash - MEP
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