Trouble in deep water
MOSCOW: In the aftermath of the naval incident off the coast of Crimea near the Kerch strait, tensions between Moscow and Kiev have risen to unprecedented levels.
Russian-backed separatists have waged a land-based war against Ukraine for more than four years. However, this conflict spilled over into the Sea of Azov when Russia captured three Ukrainian naval vessels as well as some crew members, claiming they were infringing on Russian territorial waters.
Writing in Argumenty i fakty, a weekly newspaper owned by the government of Moscow, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council of Russia, boldly argued that Ukraine “blatantly violated the international law of the sea”.
For Patrushev, this clash was a “planned provocation” by Ukraine because there were underlying, political incentives. He accused Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko of using “the navy as political bargaining chip in order to increase his own chances of remaining in power”, ahead of the presidential election due to take place in March next year.
“In lieu of a proper election campaign, Poroshenko intends to build an electoral platform solely based on fabricating imaginary threats. With the introduction of martial law, Poroshenko wants to clamp down on human rights and free speech and possibly cancel the election under the pretence of protecting Ukraine,” he wrote.
But Patrushev also reminded Russian readers of Ukraine’s ongoing social and economic problems. “Production has practically collapsed. Millions of Ukrainians have to seek work abroad”. He explicitly blamed businesses linked to Kiev’s authorities for “the embezzlement of budget funds, corruption, arms trade and fraud”.
Patrushev concluded somewhat contentiously: “Kiev’s actions have become a constant source of threat to Russia. This incident is yet another point to add on to the list of crimes committed by the Ukrainian Government.”