On Thursday, July 25, the Security Service of Ukraine together with the Military Prosecutor's Office seized Russia's NEYMA tanker, which in November 2018 blocked Ukrainian naval boats from passing through the Kerch Strait.
Firstly, the seizure is a positive step, since we absolutely clearly know what vessel it is. The whole world saw her during the "special operation" in yet another act of aggression against Ukraine. That is, it's not some fabrication on the part of Ukrainian authorities.
Secondly, another positive thing is that the seizure took place with the new president in office. After all, he had been criticized during the campaign for being allegedly pro-Russian, amid claims that he would allegedly surrender Ukraine rather than defend it. This is also a positive political signal.
Thirdly, it is also good that our law enforcement agencies cooperate with those who monitor the movement of ships that violate Crimea sanctions. That is, this worked, and it would be desirable that this be done on a permanent basis. In fact, the "blacklist" of violators of sanctions includes at least 350 vessels, sailing both under the Russian flag and those other states...
It cannot be ruled out that in response, Russia could once again slow down the process of returning 24 captured POW sailors, which was earlier announced by Ombudswoman Ludmyla Denisova
What else should be done? It must be understood that the Russians will resort to reciprocal steps. This could be provocations or something symmetrical. After all, the Azov Sea has actually been annexed. And at any moment, it could be blocked (in fact, we already saw it happen once). By the way, this same technology could be applied to our Black Sea ports as well. Moreover, this may not only be about Ukrainian vessels. It can also be about creating obstacles to free navigation of vessels sailing under other flags, just to exert pressure on Ukraine.
There may also be other steps – the "fifth column" may rise, and we will have to watch what its representatives will be saying. Most likely, they will accuse Ukraine of provocations, unfriendly moves toward "brotherly Russia," and so on.
It cannot be ruled out that in response, Russia could once again slow down the process of returning 24 captured POW sailors, which was earlier announced by Ombudswoman Ludmyla Denisova.
However, I proceed from the other aspect: Russia is not a democratic state where a rule of law reigns. They have been waging an undeclared war against us, and our citizens who are already their hostages are Russia's weapon of war. We saw them being used as weapons against Poroshenko and, of course, Moscow realizes that this factor undermines the credibility of the president. Now the president is Volodymyr Zelensky.
It's not important when exactly these "weapons" will be used. But its use cannot be ruled out.
But if we do not defend ourselves, we will lose. Therefore, our diplomats must work ahead and let our partners know that the seizure had legal grounds. That's for us to be ready if Russia responds symmetrically. And, in case of the seizure of a Ukrainian ship by Russia, we could raise this issue and attract political and diplomatic support. After all, there is no doubt that Russia will respond. We must be prepared for this and act within the framework of Ukrainian and international legislation.
Oleksandr Khara is an expert with the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation