The Ukrainian and Russian sides have signed a protocol on catching of aquatic bioresources in the Sea of Azov.

The document is designed to improve the safety of Ukrainian fishermen working in the Sea of Azov, according to the website of the State Agency for Fisheries of Ukraine.

Guided by the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and a number of agreements between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, the Ukrainian side made efforts to hold the 30th session of the Ukrainian-Russian Commission on Fisheries in the Sea of Azov in Kyiv. The meeting was held on October 23-25, 2018.

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As noted, the commission is a joint body created to coordinate the activities of both sides and establish basin-wide limits on catching of resources.

Despite the conclusions regarding the need to enter the negotiation process, the work of the commission was not completed, as a result of which the protocol of the 30th session of the commission was not signed. The agency stressed that fact affected the interests of Ukraine.

"Due to non-signing of the commission's protocol, there are no legal grounds for setting limits on catching of aquatic bioresources for 2019, as well as normative acts for Ukrainian fishermen to catch fish in the Sea of Azov. Therefore, due to the absence of the commission's protocol, Ukrainian fishermen cannot legally catch aquatic bioresources there," the report says.

"The absence of the commission's protocol will let Russian law enforcement agencies increase pressure on Ukrainian fishermen and provide the Russian side with legitimate grounds for detaining Ukrainian fishing vessels in the Sea of Azov. Thus, the Russian Federation may receive additional leverage for exacerbating social tensions in an important region for Ukraine, where fishing is one of the main activities. It will also provide the Russian Federation with grounds to assert that Ukraine does not fulfill its obligations under international treaties," the agency said.

According to Chairman of the State Agency for Fisheries of Ukraine Yaroslav Belov, after lengthy consultations with the relevant executive authorities, it was decided to send the protocol to the Russian Federation through diplomatic channels.

"The protocol sent for signing provides a number of advantages for Ukraine. One of them is the distribution of a quota on catching gobies in the amount of 9,000 tonnes for Ukraine and 6,000 tonnes for the Russian Federation. In addition, the protocol stipulates the transfer of detained fishermen to the side whose citizenship they have. This should help to increase the level of safety of Ukrainian fishermen during their economic activities. The protocol was signed through diplomatic channels," he said.

UNIAN memo. On the morning of November 25, Russia blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait for the Ukrainian tugboat "Yany Kapu" and two armored naval boats "Berdyansk" and "Nikopol," which were on a scheduled re-deployment from the Black Sea port of Odesa to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol. The Ukraine Navy Command noted that the Russian side had been informed of the plans to re-deploy the vessels in advance in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation. The Russian coast guard ship "Don" rammed the Ukrainian tugboat, damaging the Ukrainian vessel. As the Ukrainian boats were heading back in the Odesa direction after being rejected passage via the Kerch Strait, Russian coast guards opened aimed fire on them. All 24 crew members on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, being charged with "illegal border crossing" (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison). Three crewmen were wounded in the attack. Russian-controlled "courts" in occupied Crimea ruled that all 24 detainees should be remanded in custody, after which they were transferred to the Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina detention centers. Moscow's Lefortovo district court in the middle of January 2019 ruled to keep the Ukrainian sailors in remand until the end of April 2019.