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    Azov Sea

    Moscow Warns Kiev Against Attempts to Unilaterally Change Azov Sea's Status

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia has warned Ukraine against attempts to alter the status of the Sea of ​​Azov as inland waters shared by the two countries, saying the move violates international law; Moscow urges Kiev to refrain from risky steps aimed at establishing state borders there unilaterally, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

    "Russia is open to a constructive dialogue on the situation in the Sea of Azov and would like to warn Ukraine against attempts to revise the current status of the Sea of Azov as internal waters of two countries in violation of international laws," the ministry said in a statement.

    "In this regard, we urge Kiev to refrain from any risky steps aimed at the unilateral establishment of a state border in the Sea of Azov which Russia does not recognise," the ministry added.

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    The ministry went on to stress that Russia has not taken any illegal or aggressive measures against Ukraine in the inland waters they both share.

    "Russia firmly rejects all accusations of aggressive or illegal actions in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait… Its actions there are in line with international laws and aim at protecting the national security proportionately to threats from extremists, including Ukrainian ones," the ministry said in a statement.

    The Foreign Ministry emphasised that Russia regarded the waters east of Crimea as an integral part of its territory. The Black Sea peninsula in southern Europe rejoined Russia in 2014.

    As the ministry noted, Russia was not expanding its military presence in the Sea of Azov, unlike Ukraine.

    "Contrary to the statements of Kiev and Brussels, Russia is not increasing its military presence in the Sea of Azov. The forces stationed there are mainly used to guard the Crimean Bridge … While the actions of Ukraine, which announced the creation of a naval base in Berdiansk and systematically blocks certain areas of the Sea of Azov for artillery fire, are just aimed at militarizing the Sea of Azov," the ministry stressed.

    Thus, the responsibility for a surge in tensions in the Sea of Azov lies with Kiev, according to Moscow.

    "Russia warns that responsibility for a possible further exacerbation of the situation in the Azov-Kerch water area lies with Ukraine and the states supporting its provocative actions," the ministry added.

    The spike in tensions between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov this year was brought about by Ukraine's detention of two Russian ships bound for ports in Crimea, a Russian federal subject which Ukraine considers to be its territory.

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    Russia called the move "maritime terrorism" and expanded patrols off the country's Azov coast, prompting Ukraine to accuse Russia of illegal searches.

    The conflict escalated in October, when the Ukrainian parliament passed a draft law authorising Kiev to expand maritime controls by 12 nautical miles off its southern coast, allegedly in an effort to counter smuggling in the Black Sea.

    Tags:
    Kerch Strait, Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, Azov Sea
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