The European Union calls on the Russian authorities to ensure foreign vessels' free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.

"In the past months, Russia has increasingly and deliberately hindered and delayed the passage of vessels, including those from EU Member States, transiting through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukraine's ports in the Sea of Azov. We expect Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov," the European Delegation to Ukraine has said in a statement.

According to European diplomats, the Crimean Bridge, linking Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea, imposes restraints on vessels sailing across the Kerch Strait to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.

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The European Union reiterated it fully supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continues to condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and to conduct the policy of non-recognition.

As UNIAN reported, in the second half of April 2018, Russian border guards started inspecting and detaining foreign vessels heading to and from Ukrainian ports.

The Ukrainian State Border Service says that Ukraine has been a hostage to the situation since 2004, namely, under an agreement on cooperation between Ukraine and the Russian Federation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, which defines the Azov Sea as a sea of internal use of the two states. Thus, both Russian and Ukrainian border guards can inspect vessels that they consider to be suspicious.