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(mechanical whirring) – [Kasim] The Sea of Azov might be the new point of confrontation between Russia and Western-backed Ukraine. Even though Kiev currently does not plan to send Ukraine’s Navy ships
through the Kerch Strait, as it did at the end of last year, it doesn’t mean that Ukraine and NATO won’t eventually decide
to test how far Russia is ready to go in
protecting its sovereignty. (upbeat music) I’m your host Kasim and
thanks for joining me for another KJ Vid. In this video, we will
discuss the geopolitics of the Sea of Azov in
context of the Ukraine and Russia dispute. Just before we begin, please
kindly visit our website and subscribe
to one of our plans which will give you unlimited
access to our content and the full transcripts of our reports. We have left you a 50% unique discount link in the description. The Sea of Azov, which is
the world’s shallowest sea, plays host to two
important Ukrainian ports: Mariupol and Berdyansk. Mariupol is a crucial industrial port city in the Donbass region with a
population of around 450,000. It has been tense in the
city since the spring of 2014 when Russia-backed
Donetsk People’s Republic briefly controlled it. Ukrainian military managed
to recapture the city, but during the year, and also in 2015, Russia backed forces had
at least two opportunities to regain control over the
strategically important place. However, the Kremlin stopped the Donetsk People’s Republic forces in the middle of their
military offensives, and made them sign the Minsk
peace agreements instead. In the summer of 2014 the
city was almost abandoned by Ukrainian military,
and was practically left to various volunteer
battalions to defend it. Still, Moscow ordered its
proxies not to capture Mariupol. Many analysts believe that
the Kremlin, at the time, had some deals with a powerful Ukrainian billionaire
oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who owns steel plants in Mariupol. Leaving the city under Ukrainian control, the Kremlin provided
Akhmetov the opportunity to keep using the strategic port for his own business interests. Ever since, the port became
a tool for contraband, money laundering and lucrative business for both Ukrainian and
Russian oligarchic groups. After Ukraine imposed an economic blockade on the Donbass territory held
by pro-Russia forces in 2017, Kiev effectively lost control over the important Donbass mines. Since the mines are located
in Donetsk People’s Republic, the authorities of this
self-proclaimed entity now export coal to Russia, and then Ukraine buys it from Russia and exports it via the port of Mariupol. The Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of
Azov has significant political, military and economic importance for both Ukraine and Russia. In November 2018 three
Ukrainian naval vessels crossed into Russian territorial
waters in the Kerch Strait, which is de-facto part of Russia. Both countries have blamed
one another for the incident which resulted in Russia
capturing the ships including 24 Ukrainian crewmen, who are still being detained in Russia. This incident showed the importance of the of the Kerch
Strait as a vital waterway that separates the Crimean peninsula from the Russian mainland. It also connects the Sea
of Azov and the Black Sea. The narrow Kerch Strait leads from the Azov to the Black Sea, which in turn connects to
Western Europe and to Asia via the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. Since Crimea is de-facto part of Russia, Moscow now controls both
sides of the Kerch Strait. In May 2018, following the
Crimean Bridge’s completion, Russia reportedly moved naval vessels including warships from
its Caspian Flotilla to the Sea of Azov, citing a need for stepped-up security around the new structure. Due to the low height
of the Crimean Bridge, ships that rise taller
than its 33-meter clearance can’t reach the Port of Mariupol. Many believe that this bridge was deliberately built at a height that all but precludes
Ukrainian commercial traffic from operating in the Sea of Azov, thus placing the port of
Mariupol in economic jeopardy. In 2003 Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s then-President Leonid Kuchma signed the agreement that
makes the Sea of Azov jointly controlled territory, allowing both countries to use it freely. However, in reality, the sea is effectively
controlled by Russia. By gaining full control
over the Sea of Azov, Russia is actually
attempting to prevent Ukraine from going ahead with its plan to set up a naval base in the Sea of Azov. According to some reports, Ukraine lost as much as
80% of its naval fleet when Russia annexed Crimea and
took Ukraine’s ships with it. However, Ukraine now
relies on NATO assistance, and in the foreseeable
future Ukrainian vessels, backed by NATO, might attempt again to pass through the Kerch Strait in order to demonstrate that Russia does not have full
sovereignty over Crimea. However, it’s unlikely
that they will embark on such an adventure until
24 Ukrainian sailors, captured during the Kerch
Strait incident last year, are freed from Russian detention. In any case, if the Kremlin
allows such transit, NATO and Ukraine will doubtlessly see that as a sign of Russian weakness. The Kerch Strait, as well as
the whole Crimean Peninsula, is a de-facto part of Russia,
and any unauthorised passage through Russian territorial waters would be a clear violation
of Russian sovereignty. NATO and Ukraine, on the other hand, never recognised the Russian
annexation of Crimea, and therefore they claim
they have the right to freely access the Sea of
Azov through the Kerch Strait. Whenever Ukraine and its Western backers decide to go through the Kerch Strait, the Kremlin will have two options. The first is to prevent
Ukrainian and NATO vessels from entering Russian territorial waters by any and all means, which could trigger a
military confrontation, or secondly to let them pass, which would be seen as a
sign of Russia’s weakness. In the past, Russia has done its best to avoid any potential confrontations with NATO member states and its allies. In November 2015 a Turkish jet shot down a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 near
the Syrian-Turkish border. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia would not initiate a war as a result of the incident. In May 2018 the U.S. military killed dozens of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner private military company. Following the incident,
Russian media was silent. In October 2018, Russian
officials accused the U.S. of attacking the Russian
Khmeimim airbase in Syria, but the Russian military never responded. In August 2016 Vladimir Putin accused the Ukrainian Defence Ministry of killing a Russian soldier
and an FSB officer in Crimea, at the border with Ukraine. Apparently, Ukraine sent a
sabotage-renaissance group to Crimea, which resulted
in a brief border clash. Putin said Russia would “not
let such things slide by,” but in fact, Russia never responded to the alleged killing of its military and intelligence personnel. Since the Kremlin is obviously not ready for any serious confrontation
with Ukraine and the West, it’s very unlikely that it would dare to prevent NATO and
Ukrainian ships from passing through the Kerch Strait. NATO and Ukraine, on the other hand, are expected to keep
checking how far they can go with provoking Russia. However, the Western powers have no reason to go for a serious escalation with Russia in the Sea of Azov or in the Black Sea, as long as they have other instruments that they can use to get
concessions from the Kremlin. That’s all for today, guys. Thanks for watching another KJ Vid. We hope you enjoyed the video and we’d love to hear your
thoughts in the comments below, especially if you are
from Ukraine or Russia. Please don’t forget to visit
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and see you next time.


  • Steven Moomaw-Tupper


  • Roger Klang

    First of all, it has been proven that the Russian seized Ukrainian Naval vessels did not intrude on Russian water.

    Second, the Turks Control the straits in the one waterway between the Mediterranian Sea or to be more exact the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea. There is a Convention that regulates traffic in the straits. The Turks can demand that no more than one American warship enters the Black Sea at any given time. You can forget getting an Aircraft carrier into the Black Sea. But now there are bad relations between the Turks and the Americans so I don't Think that the US can get even one warship into the Black Sea.

    Unless the US plans to use the Donau river in Germany, Austria, Hungary et.c. to travel to the Black Sea there is no realistic way in. And the Donau river can only be used by speed boat sized vessels. Actually the river there is only for flat bottomed barges to travel.

  • Tymoteusz Metrak

    I love to watch your videos though this one is full of lies (or to say it lighter – mistakes).
    Talking about NATO provoking Russia is laughing the West straightly in their face. Facts are different. Actually it is Russia who is provoking and checking reactions of Ukraine, USA and other NATO members.

    Azow see is a common see for Ukraine and Russia. At least in terms of international law. Russia is putting efforts to make it de facto their own see. This is why Putting attacked an Ukrainian boat in the waters, where he had no reason. This reason was to show the world "who" is the ruler of Azow see and in greater perspective – Black see, which is a long term Russian aim since XIX century (see Crimean war 1853-1856, Balkan wars and demands on controlling Dardanelle and Bosfor after WWII).

    Russia is consequently (re) building its international position and influences. Consider making a video on that and use less biased sources, please

  • Zurab Gvelesiani

    So, because Russia de facto occupies Crimea, Ukrainian vessels entering the Kerch Strait (whithin de Jure Ukrainian territorial waters) will be a "clear violation of Russian sovereignity"? Great knowledge of international law mate )))

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