After a year of relative calm, the ongoing territorial disputes between Russia and Ukraine heated up late this week. On November 25, the Ukrainian navy said that Russian authorities closed off the Kerch Strait amid a confrontation with Ukrainian naval vessels. Earlier this year, the Russian government opened a 19-kilometer bridge across the strait, creating a road linking Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. In a statement released shortly after the incident, the Ukrainian ministry of defense said traffic through the strait had been blocked by a tanker anchored near the Kerch Strait bridge. Russian state news agency TASS, quoting Alexei Volkov, the general director of the Crimean seaports, said traffic through the strait had been closed for security purposes.
The incident came amid a confrontation at sea between Ukrainian and Russian vessels. According to the Ukrainian navy, the naval vessels Berdyansk, Nikopol and Yani Kapu were carrying out a planned transfer from the port of Odessa to the port of Mariupol on the Azov Sea. Both countries offered differing accounts of what followed. The Russian Federal Security Service’s Border Service in Crimea reported that three Ukrainian warships had illegally entered Russia’s territorial waters, and were carrying out dangerous maneuvers, TASS stated. The Ukrainian navy said Russian border patrol vessels “carried out openly aggressive action” against the Ukrainian ships, resulting in damage to one Ukrainian ship, a navy tugboat.
Overall, the current disputes between Russia and Ukraine show that the ongoing conflict between both countries is far from settled despite a decline in tensions over the past few months. The current territorial disputes between Russia and Ukraine can be traced back to early 2014 when the Obama Administration authorized the CIA to carry out a coup against the pro-Russian Ukrainian government led by Viktor Yanukovych. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to invade the Crimean region of Ukraine (which is home to a large Russian-speaking population) and annex the territory. Ever since the Russian annexation of Crimea, Ukraine has been embroiled in an endless conflict with Russia that has evolved into a proxy war between Russia and the US and its NATO allies. This recent incident shows that the localized conflict between Russia and Ukraine has the potential to turn into a major global conflict.