The Murky Sea of Azov 617

Prima facie, it is Russia which is acting illegally in the Kerch Strait. As I wrote when it was the Russians who were being harassed in the English Channel:

Contrary to Article 44 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the UK and Russia are both party, the UK has engaged in extensive illegal harassment of a Russian naval submarine engaged in fully lawful transit of the Dover Strait.

A Russian naval vessel en route between the Baltic and Black Seas is fully and specifically entitled under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea Articles 37 and 38 to the right of passage through the strait. This is in addition to the general right of passage through the territorial sea at Article 17. The Russian navy was in full compliance with the provision at Article 20 that, while in territorial waters, the submarine must be on the surface and displaying its flag, and in compliance with Articles 29 to 32 on warships.

Not only does the Russian Navy have every right to sail through the Dover strait on passage, it has been exercising that right – along with many other navies – for over a hundred years. The decision of the British government now to employ military harassment and threat is not only illegal, it is a gross and entirely deliberate act of provocation designed to sour international relations and disturb the atmosphere of world peace.

The author of this article, Craig Murray is a former Head of the Maritime Section of the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and former Alternate Head of the United Kingdom Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He is a retired British Ambassador.

Russia is very definitely acting illegally in putting military personnel of another state on television to make statements, whether coerced or not (personally I found them precisely as believable – no more and no less – as Yulia Skripal’s strained statement to British TV).

Please note that Ukrainian ships have the right of innocent passage through the Kerch Strait irrespective of whether the Crimean side is viewed as Ukrainian or Russian. The coastal state does have the right to make arrangements for maritime safety which may include designating sea lanes and a notification regime akin to air traffic control. If Ukraine violated these provisions, (which seems probable), Russia had a right to take enforcement action. But that enforcement action specifically does not extend to substantive detention of vessels and crew.

The situation changes if Russia genuinely has evidence that the military vessels were engaged in a military attack. But it only changes, and the civilian rules only cease to apply, if one side or the other acknowledges that a state of war now exits. Ukraine came close to this
by demanding that its servicemen be treated as prisoners of war. There is no option to treat uniformed military personnel of another state as terrorists. But if Russia does not acknowledge a state of war, it has to let them go. Russia is certainly not entitled to impose a wider blockade of the strait to shipping to or from Ukraine – any more than Israel is entitled to blockade Gaza.

Given that Russia appears on the face of it to be very much in the wrong, the western powers have been remarkably quiet. I suspect this indicates knowledge that Poroshenko was indeed engaged in some sort of stupid stunt. In which case the Russians have played into his hands by a disproportionate reaction. Poroshenko’s own action in declaring martial law is of course also wildly disproportionate. My sense is that we have here two Presidents each with slipping popularity ratings, deliberately escalating a crisis as it suits each domestically. Such playing with fire is wildly irresponsible, far too many people have died in Ukraine already.

I expect the usual howls of protest from people for whom the application of impartial international law is anathema, who believe you must be on the side of the “goodies” against the “baddies”. I am aware that rationality and impartiality are not much valued in political discourse nowadays. I shall however stick to them with stoic resolve.

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617 thoughts on “The Murky Sea of Azov

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  • Deb O'Nair

    There is a protocol in place since 2003 regarding the movement of ships through the straight. On this occasion the Ukrainians didn’t follow the protocol and the Russians reacted. There is also footage showing the Ukrainian tug boat deliberately and repeatedly swerving into the path of the Russian vessel.

    Putin is not gaining from this, and has tried to play the matter down, citing Poroshenko’s abysmal popularity ratings and upcoming elections as the motive. Even Western commentators have found the imposition of martial law to be a massive over-reaction. However, it does allow for tighter control over the media and gives powers to Poroshenko to cancel elections. And of course, the West has another excuse to bleat on about Russian aggression.

    • craig Post author

      Yes, as I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

      • Kk

        What would be the proportionate action in this case?

        While you may have freedom of passage in HEathrow airport when you arrive from abroad, it is not recommended that you run around with your trousers down in its corridors and ignore the instructions of the airport staff and UKBA staff.

        • Tom Welsh


          While your analogy is certainly logical, it trivialises the matter. Perhaps it would be more precise to say, “it is not recommended that you draw a loaded pistol and point it at armed police officers while pretending not to hear their shouted commands to stop and drop the gun”.

          Jean Charles de Menezes was shot nine times for just sitting quietly in a Tube train, without the slightest trace of a weapon or any hostile purpose.

          • Kk

            Possibly I do trivialise it a bit.

            It is notoriously difficult to judge “proportionate” for outsiders. I am not sure why CM chose to do it while being neither associated with any maritime trade, nor witnessing the incident itself. In these types of cases small things bear a lot on what’s seen as proportionate by both parties.

            In fact I am not sure why he decided to write about it at all. The matter is blown out of proportion (as was the original intent). But if he is interested in the region, then the Ukraine’s permanent blocking of the main fresh water channel into Crimea, leading to salination, erosion, and permanent damage to the region (regardless of the Russian occupation of it) is a FAR more significant humanitarian matter than the purported Russian blocking of a few vessels, done once ina while.

          • Tom Welsh

            I quite agree with all your points, Kk. Perhaps instead of saying your analogy “trivialised” the matter, I should have said that it understated its seriousness.

      • Tom Welsh

        So, Craig, if a senior Russian politician declared a firm intention of blowing up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; and if three small but armed Russian naval vessels were then to enter Chesapeake Bay (without giving the legally required notification) and head straight for the bridge – what do you imagine the US government would do?

        As a supplementary, you suggest that the Russians did not take “proportionate” action. What action would you suggest as “proportionate” after the Ukrainian vessels had been heading into Russian waters – without the legally required notification – for many hours, while ignoring all warnings and requests that they turn back?

        Maybe we could take as our legal precedent the murder of Jean-Charles de Menezes on the suspicion that he might possibly be a terrorist carrying explosives and with intent to kill? How proportionate was that?

        • Kk

          it is quite incredible Mr. Murray has picked up a relatively insignificant freedom of navigation issue yet ignored the much bigger issue of the fresh-water argument between Ukraine and Russia. Given the author’s background in Central Asia he should be much more familiar with it, and I would hope could share his experience with us. This thing with boats, frankly, is “bullshit on steroids” or near-there. As noted above, about as significant as a shooting in a Leytonstone Tesco car park.

    • Akos Horvath

      According to the BBC, the 2003 treaty even allows Russia to inspect any vessel leaving or entering the Sea of Azov. The chronology of events is also important, but is usually omitted in Western coverage. Russia stepped up the inspection of ships AFTER Ukraine detained a Russian fishing vessel. In addition, the overt neonazis in the Ukrainian government called for blowing up the new Kerch bridge. Sorry, but Russia has every reason in my view to treat any Ukie ship as suspect and insist on inspections.

  • Jack

    Putin: Ukraine breached Russian border and refused the calls to steer away.
    If that is correct I believe it is legal to then border the vessels in question for questioning.
    Bottom line, this wasnt a refular movement by the ukrainians so something abnormal cased this behavior by Russia.

    Regardless this is the end game of what I believe is provocations by Ukraine,
    UK Admiral Suggests Deploying Destroyer to Ukraine to Confront Russia
    Kremlin Views Ukrainian President’s Call to NATO as Provocation Ahead of Vote

    And the provocations led to a sudden martial law being imposed by the unpopular president of Ukraine, just a month or so before the election that now could be canceled.

    • craig Post author

      Yes, as I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

      • Mikhail

        The provocation lasted for a full day.

        Russian forces spent most of it asking Ukrainians to desist from violating the established rules and recommending actions that would allow them to continue on the intended route.

        Only after these attempts failed and it became obvious that Ukrainian actions were a provocation, i.e. a hostile action by military vessels in Russian waters, were they arrested.

        The provocative intent was confirmed now by evidence.

        What exactly makes it not a proportionate action?

      • RR

        You are aware, I presume, that the vessels were not some innocent fishing boats, but fully armed military ships?! Are you seriously suggesting that any other country would have not detained the armed military ships of an unfriendly nation violating their borders?!

    • Isa

      There were Ukrainian intelligence officers on board vessels which clearly indicates that this was not an innocent manoeuvre . I feel sorry for Maria Butins held in isolation confinement 22 hours a day for bogus charges in the USA , not for Ukrainian intelligence officers playing dangerous war games .

    • craig Post author

      Major Ukrainian ports are only accessible through this strait. Innocent passage is presumed unless there is actual evidence to the contrary. Otherwise the British could block the Channel to Russian military vessels too, could they not?

      • michael norton

        I can not see the Royal Navy trying to get past the new Crimean bridge, to show Putin who is the tougher, Putin would have them sunk.
        This would lead to WW3

        • Tom Welsh

          Moreover, any warship powerful enough to make a decent show (such as a frigate) would go aground in the Sea of Azov. Amusingly, it turns out that about the only ships the US Navy has whose draft is shallow enough are the notorious Littoral Combat Ships. However the US Navy itself admits that they are not intended for combat, and should perform dangerous duties only when escorted by a more powerful warship such as a destroyer. (Which could not enter the Sea of Azov without running aground).

          Apart from which, if the entire US and Royal Navies could somehow get into the Sea of Azov and float there, the Russians would have the greatest of ease in sinking the whole lot with showers of missiles.

      • Jerome FABRE

        Like not innocent though.

        2 elements you don’t mention:

        1) If you look at the trajectory BEFORE entering the strait, the Ukrainian boats had already violated Crimea’s coastal limits at least 3 times.

        2) Mariupol (coastal town) is the last town which has not fallen into the hands of the pro-Russian rebels. It is 100% surrounded though and the last supply line possible is by sea. It is therefore very likely that Porochenko is actually trying to do something stupid like you suspect.

      • Paul Greenwood

        Royal Navy can do anything it chooses if it has US backing, and does. My point was simply presumption of “innocent passage” pre-judges the situation ex-ante. My healthy scepticism does not accord the Ukrainians the benefit of the doubt and I do not therefore automatically condemn Russian actions. Maybe I could be an Arbitrator ?

        • craig Post author

          No you couldn’t be an arbiter because you are plainly parti pris. Any vessel of any nationality is entitled to right of innocent passage through the strait. You can’t predetermine it is not innocent passage on the grounds you don’t like them,

          • Tom Welsh

            “You can’t predetermine it is not innocent passage on the grounds you don’t like them”.

            But you can if they did not previously give notification and request permission – neither of which they did.

          • Tatyana

            Mr. Murray, I understand that I’m russian and thus I am more or less biassed, but there are facts.
            1. These Ukrainian ships were not going through the Strait. They were 50 kilometers away from it, just 20 km away from the russian shore. They intendedly went away from usual seaway and were heading the russian land.
            2. The military personell ignored russian requests to leave the area. They wouldn’t answer radio. They wouldn’d act ander regular protocol.
            3. The vessels were maneuvring dangerously.
            4. Ukrainian vessels put their weapons in battle mode and aimed to russian border guarding vessels, still not answering radio requests.

            With all my respect, Mr. Murray, I cannot say Russians overreacted. There was a warning shot. 10 minutes later the shot to destroy followed. Ukrainian vessels and people were saved by russians. Please, compare it to russian plain being shot down by Turkey.

            Today we see in the news that Putin explained the details of the incident to Frau Merkel and Pres. Macron. They seem to be fully satisfied.

      • Tom Welsh

        1. According to Wikipedia, Ukraine has 18 sea ports, of which two (Mariupol and Berdyansk) are on the Sea of Azov.

        “The most important Ukrainian ports are those of Odessa, Ilyichevsk and Yuzhniy, all situated not far from each other in the north-western part of the Black Sea. These three ports alone totally account for 56.6 % of the entire cargo turnover in Ukrainian merchant seaports and 38.28 % of cargo handling in all ports and terminals of the country. These ports offer the best approach ways (drafts of vessels accommodated are 11.5 – 14.5 m.). The other ports in Ukraine can only accommodate ships with considerably less draft.

        “The major container terminals in Ukraine are also located in the ports of Odessa, Ilyichevsk and Yuzhniy.

        “At the mouths of the largest Ukrainian rivers, the Dnepr and Yuzhniy Bug, there is another cluster of merchant seaports, namely Nikolaev, Kherson, Oktyabrsk, which handle both bulk and general cargoes”.

        2. “Innocent passage” requires prior notification and permission. However, Ukraine did not give the required notification. Isn’t that evidence that they were up to no good?

        3. There are some fairly obvious differences between the Kerch Strait and the English Channel. At its narrowest, the Kerch Strait is just over 3 km wide, whereas the Strait of Dover is 33.3 km wide. The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest waterways, with immense amounts of traffic from all sorts of countries, ranging from fishing boats and yachts to vast oil tankers and container ships. Also, last time I looked there was no bridge across the Straits of Dover that a hostile government had threatened to blow up. (With, may I add, eager encouragement from the Western media).

  • craig Post author

    Numerous countries border the Black Sea. It isn’t “Russian pure and simple”. And ownership of either territorial sea or exclusive economic zone does not preclude the right of innocent passage.

  • Carl

    I see old Poro’s approval rating is labouring at 7%. With an election in the spring he has nothing to lose and all to gain by a bit of martial law, perhaps real war. No wonder the western media is quietly drawing a veil over his antics.

    • Jack


      Yeah they are in a disarray, they – the journalists – wonder “why did Putin do this?”, and they cant really grip it. If they would only scrutinize the ukrainian side it would be much easier for them and their vibrant..psychosis-like-behavior.

      • Tom Welsh


        “Yeah they are in a disarray, they – the journalists – wonder “why did Putin do this?”, and they cant really grip it. If they would only scrutinize the ukrainian side it would be much easier for them and their vibrant..psychosis-like-behavior”.

        As Upton Sinclair remarked 100 years ago, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”.

    • James

      I think the martial law gimmick says a lot about this incident.

      What possible value could it have in dealing with this situation?

      Or was Mr P planning to bring it in anyway and needed an excuse?

      Interesting that even Ukraine parliament didn’t give him quite what he wanted.

      • Tom Welsh

        Poroshenko’s popularity rating is firmly below 10%. In other words, in any election he would be massacred. After which, he would very probably be literally massacred in person – it’s hard to assess the number of people who hate him and the depth of that hatred.

        Hence the need for martial law – during which elections cannot be held. And hence the provocation – Poroshenko obviously hoped the Russians would blow his little boats out of the water, allowing him to scream “Russian brutality! Russian invasion!” and establish martial law – perhaps indefinitely.

    • Paul Greenwood

      Porkyschenko has arrived where Macron is headed………no doubt there will be an incident with British fishing vessels soon

      • Tom Welsh

        Damn! At first I misread your comment as saying “Macron is beheaded” – I thought, “Ah, the Jacobins are back!” (Or maybe Macron offended MbS…)

    • Akos Horvath

      There is a good discussion on the alleged INF violations, by both sides mind you, on the specialist site, run by Pavel Podvig. This is I think a Harward project, so should be legit even in the eyes of those who only believe in Western news sites. The bottom line is that the Russians have just as strong arguments as the yanks do. The anti-missile launchers in brown nosing Poland and Romania are of the standard types that can easily launch normal cruise missiles. Plus, drones, that had not existed at the time of the INF’s signing, are for all practical purposes intermediate range cruise missiles. But read the archived discussion on the topic, it has lots of good technical info.

  • Steve Steglitz

    While the Sea of Azov might not be Russian, the Kerch Strait is, because of its narrowness and because Russia is on both sides. (Crimea is Russia.) This makes it Russian territorial waters.

    Non-Russian ships can cross it of course, but they need permission from Russian border control. If an Iranian vessel carrying military supplies entered the Thames estuary, someone might get uppity about it, even if its intention was to steer away back into the Channel. It would be stopped and likely searched.

    And here, the two Ukrainian vessels did not seek permission. They just violated the border. Why would they do that? Only one reason: act of provocation. Moreover, one of Ukrainian vessels was carrying a mass of arms and explosives used in warfare.

    I don’t buy the “I’m innocent Guv” story of the Ukrainians.

    • Mathias Alexander

      But if non Russian trritory lies boynd the Kirch Strait does that not make it an international waterway like the Bosphorous?

    • craig Post author

      I am becoming somewhat exasperated. The whole point of straits is that they are by definition territorial waters, which encompass 24 nautical miles (12 from either side).
      Nevertheless everybody is entitled to innocent passage through them. That is the law.

      • Mikhail

        “Innocent” is key.

        Where two countries have signed a treaty that specifies a procedure for passage of the straights and purported passage involves violation of the agreed procedure, after 12 hours of refusal to comply with reasonable demands, lack of innocence becomes rather well established, beyond any reasonable doubt.

        Subsequent discoveries confirmed Russian border guard made the right call.

      • Andrew S Carter

        Craig is is apparent that you are not the only one becoming – as you put it – “exasperated”; to say that the Sea of Azov is open to navigation by “everybody” is just plain nonsense – the only two nations with any entitlement to access are the signatories to the 2003 Treaty.

        To argue otherwise would be to imply that the Chinese would be perfectly within their rights to commence FON missions on Lake Michigan or Lake Ontario, or for Russia to casually patrol Lake Geneva (either of which I hope we can both agree would be an absurdity)

        • Akos Horvath

          Exactly. Moreover, said 2003 treaty allows Russia to inspect any vessel leaving or entering the Sea of Azov. This was reported by the BBC, although only in one of their many items on this ‘crisis’. It’s telling about the state of Western media that nobody wants to publish what is in that famous 2003 treaty. But informing the public is not their role, as we all know.

      • Antonym

        Dover Strait is 18 nautical miles at its narrowest with one side British and one French; Kerch Strait is only 1.6 nautical miles wide at its narrowest with both sides Russian (and spanned by a new Russian bridge).
        Apples vs oranges…

      • Tom Welsh

        Craig, you keep repeating “everybody is entitled to innocent passage through them. That is the law”.

        I find it surprising that you offer an extremely truncated and partial statement, and then assert “That is the law”.

        As I understand it, the law to which you refer makes the right of innocent passage conditional on prior notification – which in this case Ukraine did not give.

      • Ray Raven

        C’mon Craig, respond..
        Relieve yourself of you exasperation by addressing the matters raised by the other commentators to this specific comment of yours.
        Namely address the matters that you have conveniently overlooked (stufff like, the 2003 Treaty and its notification protocols, the fact that the bridge and its ongoing availability and functionality is of critical importance the Crimea (eg. fresh water supply).
        Also, please define you understanding of the phrase “innocent passage” and whether “innocence” is forfeited if the protocols of the 2003 Treaty are not followed.

  • Kk

    It seems the issue is that the Ukrainian warships have neglected to communicate with the Russian coast guard when attempting to pass under the bridge. Or do you expect that a bridge such as this one would not be under the control of the Russian coast guard?

    • craig Post author

      The bridge is not especially relevant. It crosses a strait and what the Ukrainians appear to have failed to done is comply with the regulations for navigating the strait.
      As I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

      • Mikhail

        Russians did not arrest ships in response to failure to comply with the regulations for navigating the strait.

        In response to that, Russians merely ordered Ukrainian ships to stop, turn around and await authorization to proceed after their failure of notification is rectified by negotiation between superiors. Check the radio transcripts. Its was a very reasonable, very friendly response which was ignored by Ukrainians. Maritime law requires ships claiming innocent passage to comply with reasonable rules and this legal requirement was, in fact, clearly breached.

        Arrest of Ukrainian ships 12 hours later was entirely separate and a product of the Ukrainians thoroughly establishing absence of innocence in their passage and committing new infractions of the Russian law which, ultimately, necessitated said arrest.

      • Akos Horvath

        Given that the openly neonazi elements in the Ukrainian government have threatened several times to blow up the Kerch bridge, I think the bridge is relevant and the Russians have every reason to inspect every Ukrainian ship trying to cross under it.

      • Paul Greenwood

        it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action.

        There is no difference between pleasure ships and warships then………..and Kiev’s hostility towards Russia gives no reason to be suspicious. I mean in March 2007 Iran apprehended some RN sailors in disputed waters searching merchant vessels.

      • Alex Westlake

        It’s relevant because it’s only 35m high which means a lot of vessels can’t pass through it. Part of its purpose is to blockade Mariupol and Berdyansk

        • Tom Welsh

          “It’s relevant because it’s only 35m high which means a lot of vessels can’t pass through it. Part of its purpose is to blockade Mariupol and Berdyansk”.

          You are not a naval architect or an engineer, are you, Alex?

          As the Sea of Azov has an average depth of 7 metres and a maximum depth of 14 metres, it’s hard to imagine a ship with small enough draft to navigate it safely having an “air draft” anywhere close to 35 metres.

          • Ray Raven

            C’mon Tom; surely you’ve heard of, but perhaps not seen, the world famous skyscraper ships that Alex is intimate with (/s).

        • Tom Welsh

          Ironically, the bridge’s only real purpose is to compensate for the real blockade the Kiev junta has imposed on Crimea by land. Normally Crimea should be supplied across the neck of the peninsula leading to the Crimean mainland. But after Crimea rejoined Russia, first the Ukrainians destroyed the electricity supply lines and the water pipes, and then cut off most necessary supplies from reaching Crimea.

          Naturally, Russia replied by building the bridge.

  • James

    Useful analysis Craig – many thanks.

    This is a messy and dreary dispute between two nationalisms, with no good will on either side. And definitely no goodies or baddies anywhere in sight.

    Looks like Ukraine went out looking for trouble and Russia was only too pleased to provide it (and bringing men before a court won’t help at all). Sad and pathetic all round. Fortunate that more people were not hurt.

    Let’s just hope Western countries don’t chuck more petrol on the flames. It really is high time the Ukraine situation was sorted out.

    Federation anyone? Or perhaps implementing the Minsk Accord seriously…

    • Baron

      But the ‘Ukrainian situation’ will never be solved, James, the poor Ukrainian burghers have become in that part of Europe what the Palestinians are in the ME, a pawn in the power game between the West and Russia, that’s what’s so tragic.

      Everyone blames Putin for not sticking to the Minsk deal, yet it is Poroshenko who has failed to implement the agreed steps. That’s also the reason no Western MSM poodle has ever said what the Minsk agreement required Russia or Ukraine to do. If they published the agreement it will show clearly it’s the Ukrainians that are ignoring it.

      • Paul Greenwood

        Putin is not “obliged” to stick to Minsk Deal.. The Minsk Deal is between Donetsk and Kiev with Paris, Berlin and Moscow as Guarantors and Interlocutors rather as The Locarno Treaty 1925 had Britain, Italy, France and Belgium guaranteeing the Western borders of Germany leaving Germany to negotiate borders with Poland and Czechoslovakia and them turning to France for Unilateral Guarantees.

        Putin is a party to tripartite agreement with France and Germany but Kiev has to create autonomy region. It overthrow the elected Autonomous Government in Crimea in 2014 precipitating the problems

    • bj

      Looks like Ukraine went out looking for trouble and Russia was only too pleased to provide it

      Listen to the 20+ minute radio communications and then come back here to rectify the latter statement.

  • Ewan Maclean

    It’s good to have a genuine expert to clarify. I understood that Russia allowed unhindered passage if notified. It was not notified. Does this make any difference to the legalities? I can see why President Poroshenko would want a confrontation. Why President Putin would is a mystery. War with Ukraine is the last thing Russia needs.

    • Paul Davidson

      FACTS FIRST: Russia demands not only notification of passage but also agreement of passage in each case. Those who say Russia ‘owns’ both side of the straight are wrong. Crimea is still internationally recognised as part of Ukraine, however inconvenient that may be. Under international law Russia’s territorial integrity only allow it to claim the part of the straight bordering Russia, not Crimea (as it stands). Putin recognised that but said that despite this, the Ukrainian ships entered what is internationally recognised as Russian waters and did so with out notification and without permission.

      Poroshenko stands to benefit from a confrontation, yes. But so does Putin. They both do. As to timing, one could also argue that the timing is perfect for Putin precisely because the appearance is given that it was Poroshenko who stood to gain most. Also it is very important to distinguish between the interests of a nation and the interests of a leader. Both leaders might benefit but in the end only one nation will. And looked at that way, what earthly benefit has Ukraine to gain from such provocations by Poroshenko? In other words he is not acting in the interests of his nation but Putin may be.

      On a national level it is a zero-sum game. On a personal level, with regard to the fortunes of the leaders, it is not.

      • Ewan Maclean

        I would be interested what benefit Russia could hope for, or President Putin. Russia has worked very hard to contain the conflict and to attempt a diplomatic resolution. As for President Putin. Liberals or Westerners garner about 5% of the vote in Russian elections. The bulk of the votes not cast for President Putin go to parties more nationalistic (often way more nationalistic). If conflict with Ukraine flairs up, these parties will demand that Russia moves on Kiev (which everyone knows would take at most a week). There is already pressure on President Putin for “betraying” the Novorossiyans. The Americans would love to have him show the world how truly evil he is by bullying poor corrupt disintegrating Ukraine. Why would President Putin stir things up? (I’m saying this as if I know. I don’t. I”m asking.)

    • Paul Greenwood

      I read that Ukrainian ships had passed unmolested in recent weeks. I do wish I had a fuller picture. One day I shall have access to “Western News” as in the old days, rather than dreary propaganda as nowadays

    • craig Post author

      If the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate enforcement action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

      • Ewan Maclean

        Thank you. The breach of international law then is in detaining and parading the Ukrainian sailors and security service personnel. This is something too many states do, even with prisoners of war – which presumably means they won’t make the effort to enforce the law. Is there any way to stop such ritual humiliation of individuals? On the blocking of the straits, is that not something any state would do until it had determined exactly what was happening?

        • Paul Greenwood

          Is there any way to stop such ritual humiliation of individuals?

          Waterboard them in private and invite Gina Haspel to supervise and have an MI6 man hold her handbag

          • Tom Welsh


            “Waterboard them in private and invite Gina Haspel to supervise and have an MI6 man hold her handbag”.

            That would be the civilized American, Uzbek or (perhaps) British way.

      • Tom Welsh

        “If the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate enforcement action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait”.

        Craig, I really would like to see you in command of the Russian authorities in such a situation. You have three armed Ukrainian warships that are heading for the strait and the bridge, and refusing to obey or even acknowledge any instructions. Moreover, no notification has been received of their intention to pass through the strait.

        You warn them dozens of times, offer to have them pause while notification is made, but they persist in ignoring you as if you were not there. As if that were not enough, the prepare their guns for firing by removing the muzzle covers, and rotate the turrets to threaten your ships.

        Now, what action would you take that would be “proportionate”? There is apparently no way of stopping the vessels passing through the strait (which, however, is your duty) except by sinking them or physically blocking their progress. As you realise, stopping a warship by getting in its way is very dangerous.

        But that is what the Russians eventually had to do.

        Now what? From your article and previous replies, you would either release the Ukrainian ships and their crews immediately, or perhaps detain them “briefly” – whatever that means.

        Now what? The crews return to their ships, start the engines, swing round and head straight back towards the bridge.

        I repeat: what are you going to do that is “proportionate”?

      • Ray Raven

        “If the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime” ?
        Wilful ignorance Craig ?
        Why compose an article if you are not aware or knowledgable of all the relevant / pertinent facts ?
        This article is like sand mold casting, – it’s what’s not there that is important.
        It is common knowledge, from the onset of this fracas; that the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime.

    • Tom Welsh

      “Why President Putin would is a mystery. War with Ukraine is the last thing Russia needs”.

      Indeed, Ewan. Which is why Washington has been trying to start one since 2014.

      As Noam Chomsky puts it, violence is the US government’s strong suit. So it always tries to make sure all issues are settled by force. Any recourse to diplomacy or negotiation is regarded as a loss by Washington. It puts them at a disadvantage.

  • Isa

    Craig , this is unrelated but I have no twitter account and don’t want to create one as it’s too toxic out there . But could you ask Carole Cadwalladr why is she posting innuendo about Farage meeting Assange as a question when all she has to do is to consult the visitation log books her employer Guardian has in their possession ? Is she ignoring this fact and embarked on innuendo on purpose or is she really blissfully ignorant of the fact they have the log book ?

    I don’t care if Farage visited or not , it’s irrelevant . What I care for us people telling the truth and Carole is seemingly embarking on innuendo journalism / desinformation .

    did he visit the embassy , as in the embassy not Assange
    Did he just request a visit with Assange and was refused
    did he actually spend time with Assange

    Or he never visited Assange .

    I’m sick of this type of journalism. I can honestly not believe she is not aware her employer has the log books . Thank you and I understand if you don’t wish to do this .

    • Jack

      Carole Cadwalladr seems just as crazy as Luke Harding with her constant stream on Twitter accusing everyone and everything being in cahots with Putin. There is no reason asking rational questions to these people, at best you get blocked. Better to expose their lies on blogs etc.

      • Isa

        It’s infuriating though . I don’t know if he visited or not and I don’t really care but if reports are true that he visited as a journalist for the radio station then the log will show the cameraman or crew member as well . It beats her publishing photos of Farage at a building that is not the Ecuadorian embassy while stating it is although corrected . It’s as if she’s followed by s cult of stepford people that have killed all their logic brain functions .

        • Molloy


          Moderation? On what grounds please?



          [ Mod: No grounds – it was a software blip. A blog plugin for detecting spam has reported problems:

          “Some comments have not yet been checked for spam. They have been temporarily held for moderation and will automatically be rechecked later.”

          All new comments were affected. I think it’s sorted itself out now. ]

        • Lawrence Anderson Burley

          If Cadwalladr behaved like this, I am really disappointed. I had followed her long research on Cambridge Analytica et al. and her courageous outing of Leave campaign’s outright criminality and thought she had integrity. I even donated once. What happened here? are they all on an editor’s leash, yanked into compliance when they approach a Graun third rail, like Julian Assange, or indeed Corbyn?

          • Isa

            She did yes sadly . She’s been attaching Assange persistently as well as defending mueller as if the man is a saint and WMD never existed . That is enough for me to be extremely careful with her articles .

            She also keeps omitting important things from her articles such as the fact that Cambridge Analytica data used was only regarding USA citizens and hence had no influence at all in the brexit referendum . The numbers of the Facebook reach are also highly inflated and massaged for the USA . And this is precisely my problem , I have loved newspapers and news all my life , but reading 1 article in the guardian requires almost PHD type of research afterwards to check the facts and it’s exhausting . It’s also not right as the media is supposed to inform us not trying to mould us with selective or manipulated data .

          • Dungroanin

            At least a BILLION FB ads were targeted at UK voters during the referendum.
            The ads were also ‘personalised’ using their FB data.
            Data of Brits.

            These are facts. The brexit campaigners have admitted as much themselves.

            What has gone largely uncommented on this week – is the failure of the boy-wizard Zuke, to turnup at the select commitee hearing again, and the pausity of any cooperation or brexit data by the FB faces put up there. Hell even Mordork&Sons turned up!

            I just can’t make my mind up about Carole..

    • Ian

      It was witnessed by a Buzzfeed reporter. Farage has since acknowledged it, but with the flimsy excuse he was going to see him on behalf of LBC for a programme. If you believe that… Who knows why Assange agreed to meet him, but Wikileaks were also communicating with Stone, one of Trump’s coterie, before the election (again acknowledged).
      There is nothing to lose by registering on Twitter and looking yourself.

      • isa

        Ian, Frankly the whole Stone thing in the Atlantic looks iffy to me and rather confusing, not that anything is wrong with anybody visiting assange. Regarding Buzzfeed, there is no need for hear say from them. The Guardian has the logs , that is quite simple and objective. That is my point . I am sick of innuendo. Again, there is nothing wrong with anyone visiting Assange, even if that person is farage and it does not mean anything in terms of the Rusia collusion crazy paranoia or that Brexit is Putin’s work or whatever crazy narrative people wish to push. Give me facts , not wild conjectures. We have all left highschool a long time ago. these are serious issues, not gossip social media feed material treated by people in a juvenile fashion.

        Reading these things on twitter is also not ideal as people produce memes and unreadable arguments due to the restriction in characters.

        • Ian

          As Farage admitted it there is no need for hearsay about it. I didn’t say that Farage visiting Assange proved anything, merely that they are unlikely bedfellows. Cadwalladr has been slowly tugging at all the threads which link US big money to various brexiteers, Trump. Banks, Bannon etc. For that she is to be commended, in the face of completely silence from the rest of the media and a lot of sneering. As far as Russia goes, I don’t buy the conspiracy theory, though I think it quite likely that oligarchs and criminals might be involved in this dark web. If you want facts, you won’t get the whole picture, just nuggets here and there which you have to make your own mind up about, and draw your own conclusions. Suffice to say there isn’t a simple explanation or clearly defined sides, but a tangle of money, corruption and influence, especially with the help of some politicians. It is essential that at least some of it should come to light, if you place any value in some semblance of transparency in the public realm. Or you can just shrug your shoulders and walk away from it.

    • Isa

      Dungroanin: there may have been billions ( maybe not billions or even millions but thousands ) of pro brexit Facebook adverts but they had nothing to do with CA. The actual IC report states negotiations between leave and CA never passed the preliminary stage . It is also the case that the data was that of USA users and not U.K. users . It should also be niredthst prior to 2014 when this data was collected , this was a tool available to all companies that wished to gather it since it was part of FB settings that were since changed and you could opt out of although that was not very transparent in the user privacy settings .

      Also , you cannot target Facebook adverts to precise people , only to the demographics available in the existing filters : age , interests , geographic location etc and that is available to any Facebook user .

      there were blatant lies in the campaign but the most blatant were on the sides of buses , on posters reminiscing of a certain Tory poster by bell pottinger and also on Facebook but via silly memes about turkey in the EU and TTIP that people shared . That was not targeted by any other means on Facebook than those available to any Facebook user that wishes to carry out a Facebook campaign .

      • Dungroanin

        Isa you are either genuinly naive (in which case i have endless time to debate and educate) or you are a faux-naive personality deployed here in which case i have endless time to defeat your intentions – lets start with your instant misrepresentation of my quote of BILLION fb ads, which you turn into billionS and then thousands and millions – so here is what Dominic Cummings had to say:

        “”Almost all of Vote Leave’s digital communication and data science was invisible even if you read every single news story or column ever produced in the campaign”
        ” In the official 10 week campaign we served about one billion targeted digital adverts, mostly via Facebook and strongly weighted to the period around postal voting and the last 10 days of the campaign. We ran many different versions of ads, tested them, dropped the less effective and reinforced the most effective in a constant iterative process. We combined this feedback with polls (conventional and unconventional) and focus groups to get an overall sense of what was getting through.”

        Note – this is not Leave.EU, this Vote Leave.

        There is a lot more about the secretly funded, undeclared voter manipulation available. I’ll happily point you to it.

        But first how much do nearly a Billion FB ads cost?
        How many different versions were broadcast?
        To whom?
        Using what user data and response.

        Please don’t tell me that advertising doesn’t work -that would be a disaster for commercial broadcast and print media.

        And because most people are not so different the ads don’t have to be exactly individually made, but targeted at all who will stand up and salute, and spread the word, to be succesful.

        We are talking about changing the mind of one voter in 30 – which is more then the margin of the brexit referendum.

        The guilty parties are protected aristos. The systems used are deployed in elections across the planet, and they can only be stopped by political will and real powers for independent election regulators – neither of which we have now.

    • Agent Green

      Ukraine is in no position to start anything. War with Russia would be effectively over in a day. No Ukrainian units would have any operational combat capability after a day.

      • Paul Greenwood

        which is why Ukrainian Ambassador to Berlin urged Germany to get involved based on its experience in the region. No-one has told him Erich von man stein died in 1973 and is not available !

    • Steve Steglitz

      If a mugger attacks a man in the street and latter fends mugger off, are they acting like children or is one acting legitimately?

      Are the women in the House of Commons who voted to bomb civilians in Iraq, Libya and Syria also silly men?

      • Tom Welsh

        Absolutely agree, Steve. I was thinking of writing a similar comment, but had wearily decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.

        But you are right. It’s always worth the trouble of asserting truth.

  • John A

    The Ukrainian attempt to pass through the Kerch Strait without Russian consent is a breach of Article 7, 19 and 21 of the UN Law of the Sea Convention

    Article 7: “Subject to this Convention, ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.”

    Article 19-1: “Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.”

    Article 21-4: “Foreign ships exercising the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea shall comply with all such [coastal state] laws and regulations and all generally accepted international regulations relating to the prevention of collisions at sea.”

    The legal case is clear. It was the Ukrainian navy that willfully attempted to pass from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through Russian territorial waters without regard to the laws and regulations of the coastal state. Russia was within its full rights to prevent the passage and to seize the Ukrainian boats.
    Not forgetting both Ukranian politicians and US politicians have called for the bridge to be destroyed. Russia has every right to ensure only innocent passage through the straights is allowed. All else is propaganda.

      • Matt

        Well give him chance, it was only posted half an hour before yours!

        My reading is they had the right to take action (if the right protocols were followed) but not to siezure and imprisonments. Do you read it differently?

        • Dungroanin

          That WH meeting:
          ‘On November 16, the US State Department/CIA met with the Ukrainian State Department representative, and from that meeting they agreed that it should be the objective of both sides to bring about conditions that would justify a United Nations international military force being put on the border of Russia and used to fight against pro-Russian forces to take back Donetsk, to take back Crimea, and all Donbass area that revolted after the CIA puppet government was installed. ‘
          A summary of the meeting Pompeo had with the Ukrainians, copied from a commentator on a Saker piece on the incident.


          • Molloy


            DG. . . . do you have a copy by any chance? Thank you.

            Tried the link at 2353hrs 29.11.2018:

            “The page you’re looking for may have been moved or renamed” or swallowed by the DS?!


        • MIkhail

          Indeed, and that is exactly what the Russians did – after detecting unannounced military vessels headed for the straight in violation of the notification procedures, they informed those ships by radio, that they should halt and proceed to a designated waiting area while the notification failure is rectified, after which they will be able to proceed to destination. All rather politely and in a friendly manner, stressing very specifically, that once the paperwork was brought in order they will be able to proceed.

          Unannounced military vessels ignored these instructions rather deliberately, although Russian authorities continued to keep their cool and negotiate. At some point, after repeated failure to elicit any reasonable response to the friendly request to fix the paperwork, one of the Ukrainian ships had to be physically blocked by a Russian ships, although still, no attempt was made to arrest the ships. It has also been reported that Ukrainian ships had activated their artillery (removing stoppers etc) around that time.

          With dangerous events like that happening in the vicinity, the straight was closed down for shipping, a reasonable precaution by any account.

          The standoff continued for over 12 hours before Russian authorities exhausted all diplomatic means (both through communication with the ships and, presumably, with Kiev/Odessa) and a decision was made to arrest the ships for violations of Russian border law committed in the 12 hours that those ships have been performing various hostile and illegal activities within Russian borders.

          This is a crucial point – Russian border force had no intention of arresting those ships for violation of the notification regime. It is the subsequent actions of the Ukrainian ships, actions that had nothing to do with innocent passage of the strait and that were illegal under applicable law, that landed those sailors in Russian prison.

          When the arrests were made and documentation found onboard studied – it was discovered, that Ukrainian sailors were indeed under orders to deliberately violate the law and create a border incident. But of course, it is Russia that is inherently evil, and not to be trusted:)

          • Jo

            Pretty certain that genuine innocent ships would be damn grateful for Russia doing what it did….considering what ukraine has already to other shipping in the area.

      • Dungroanin

        Pompeo had meeting at whitehouse the week before. It is on their website.
        There was a rumour of a Royal Navy ship in the viccinity of the Ukrainian flotilla before they went through the Strait.

        It seems that it could have been a deliberate attempt to induce a serious attack by the Russians using a dummy attack on the bridge. Yet, the Russians didn’t overeact. But the Ukrainians imposed martial law upon some of their regions!

        It seems they are planning electoral strongarm, breaking heads technics to create their next proxy sacrificial battleground. Without free reporting. It has already started.

    • craig Post author

      John A It is a strait. Different rules apply. Look up the passages of the Law of the Sea cited in the article.
      Yes, as I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.
      The circumstances in which vessels may be ceased are rightly very limited and specified in the Convention.
      The strait actually leads to a major part of the Ukrainian coast. The Ukrainians have the right to pass through it.

      • BallsBuster

        Wouldn’t uncovering the weapons and refusal to comply to clearly marked border control vessels commands (those were not Russian Navy ships) strip the Ukranian craft of the right of innocent passage?

      • Mikhail

        Its a straight regulated by a bilateral treaty, so still other rules apply between signatories, even if you would make a case that third party ships could rely on the general principles.
        Deliberate failure to comply with the rules with hostile intent (established over a full day that the events were taking place) invalidates any protection international maritime law would afford to innocent passage.

      • Entropy Wins

        Did the willful armed Ukraine infringement of Russia’s territorial waters actually occur in the specific area of the Strait? The three boats had sailed from Odessa round the south coast of Crimea so the approached the bridge area from the south west.

        You go on about a blockade. Where is the evidence for a blockade (a legally defined term?). The bridge was closed to all traffic (not just Ukrainian) for the duration of the incident (on the grounds of reasonable suspicion of an armed attack against it) then reopened to all traffic. If the bridge had been blown up or damaged, as the Russians suspected it might, then the bridge area would be closed for an extended period.

      • Antonym

        For civilian ships yes. For military….?
        This strait gives is the only sea access to the little sea of Azov that is fully surrounded by Russia and Ukraine only: nothing like the Dover Strait. What would other navies have to do there? Nothing like the South China Sea too.

      • Dungroanin

        I applaud your persistence on this article to get a very clear message to ALL who may see it.

        Let me help out – Duh, its the LAW, stupid!

        If the rule of international law is set on a course of indiscriminate abbeyance, then we will end up with the inevitable.

        The G20 agenda does seem to have had some late revision.
        By deliberate events perhaps.

    • certa certi

      ‘Passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in any of the following activities:

      1.any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;
      2.any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind;
      3. any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the defence or security of the coastal State;
      4. any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State;
      5. the launching, landing or taking on board of any aircraft;
      6. the launching, landing or taking on board of any military device;
      7. the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State;
      8. any act of wilful and serious pollution contrary to this Convention;
      9. any fishing activities;
      10. the carrying out of research or survey activities;
      11. any act aimed at interfering with any systems of communication or any other facilities or installations of the coastal State;
      12. any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage.’

      Russia has any number of legal pretexts to deem the Ukrainian vessels not to be engaging in innocent passage. But why would Russia make such a hard move at this particular time? Here’s why –

      ‘Measures to implement Presidential Executive Order On Special Economic Measures in Connection with Ukraine’s Unfriendly Actions towards Citizens and Legal Entities of the Russian Federation
      1 November 2018’

      and Ukraine’s response –

      ‘Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said on November 1st that general cargo ship Comet (IMO 9146106) had been detained in Mariupol, with 3,000 tons of steel plates that were destined for Antwerp being confiscated. The steel plates were produced by the Alachevsk Steel Mill in the occupied Krim territory and any trade deals with any companies and factories on occupied territories are considered by Ukraine to be illegal. Ukraine said that all the involved parties, including the manager of the ship, would be prosecuted, not just for illegal trade and violation of sanctions, but also for collusion in terrorism. The Comet had called at Mariupol on October 28th, arriving from the port of Temryuk, where the shipment had been loaded.’

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Would hardly call the states on the Black Sea numerous since there are only five, and they are all in the pocket of BATO except Russia either officially like Bulgaria and Romania or unofficially like Georgia and the Ukraine since it tried to shoot down Putin’s p[;ane returning from South America, and blaming the accidental shooting down of that Malaysian plane on Moscow.

    We are told nothing even vaguely of what is going on in the area.

    • Agent Green

      Western news agencies provide only one side of the story. That’s why you should always check RT, Sputnik and other Russian sources to get at least some semblance of a balanced view.

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        I do the best I can with other sources, but still do my own checking about things like who is in NATO officially and unofficially, which states border on the Black and Azov Seas, etc.

        It’s amazing how many educated people just talk off the top of their heads.

      • Tom Welsh

        “Western news agencies provide only one side of the story”.

        Western news agencies provide *at most* one side of the story. For really embarrassing stories, the preferred method is simply to ignore it altogether.

  • Simon

    The Ukraine has openly threatened to blow up the bridge, that gives Russia the absolute right to treat their actions as potentially hostile and violent, and the absolute right to confiscate the ships and prosecute the crew

    • craig Post author

      No it does not. You are talking some of the most stupid nonsense I have heard for a long while. Unless Russia wishes actually to declare war, it has no right to blockade the Ukrainian coast (and even then only a limited right for certain purposes).

      • Spencer Eagle

        Well, maybe they didn’t openly threaten the bridge, but the Russians are being very circumspect over their $4b investment. There is a risk that someone in Ukraine, not necessarily state sponsored, might have a go at the bridge, given the amount of egg on Putin’s face such an attack would generate. Since April 30, the Russian intelligence services have been stopping ships on a daily basis to inspect them and identify the crew. There are designate channels in place for passage beneath the bridge and it would appear Ukrainian vessels strayed from them.

      • Entropy Wins

        You seem to be unaware that Ukraine has already done that to at least one Russian vessel, the Nord. They also forced another vessel into Mariupol, a ship of non-Russian ownership taking a load of Russian steel to a Belgian customer FOB. The crew was detained. Most of them were Ukrainian but there was one Russian. They also attempted to detain the cargo, until they realised the significance of FOB.

  • Spencer Eagle

    We understand and agree with your point on maritime law and right of passage, however, no one seems to know exactly what transpired at the scene. It did end in dangerous maneuvering, ramming and shots fired – not unlike Leyton Tesco car park on Saturdays..

    • Dungroanin

      They don’t know about the straits of Leyton. Dare say there are many ukrainians in that hood. They all get on well enough. The russians, checks, romanians, poles as well as the ethnic anglo. Irish, pakistani and afro carribean etc.

      London is a model, of people from everywhere able to get on with their lives and each other, that the world should learn from, rather then be led into nationalist division by warmongering profiteers.

      Reason to be cheerful.

      • Spencer Eagle

        You jest, Sir, surely? No one gets on, the all have their own turf, most of it linked to drugs or prostitution. Many have imported their own pre existing and long standing enmity of other nationals and are literally fighting it out on the streets of London, hence the massive rise in knife crime and acid attacks, both imports in their own right. In particular Somali and Congolese migrants have brought a whole new level of violence to London, even some of the harden ‘gangsters’ are alarmed at what they are up to.

        • Dungroanin

          Spencer there are thugs and criminals in all communities, the celebrated gangster ‘families’ of London that you cite – need I say more?

          The majority who are here are ordinary people looking to work, mainly young. They have manned all these building sites that the cranes over London have inhabited for the last decade. They also keep the Rail infrastructure functioning and building HS2, Crossrail. The NHS workers. The restaurants, coffee houses, hotels,The delivery van drivers of Amazon and co. Etc
          They are just the same as the majority of law abiding nationals. Pay their tax and ni. Some have multiple jobs. They miss their families, friends and home comforts. They take cheap flights (staffed by?) to visit back.

          I meet them in social environments, such as casinos (also staffed by many of them), where they unwind, mostly alcohol free. Their english slowly improving.

          Most are by experience learning to get past their insular nationalism and suspicion of their homelands – and learning to get on with everyone – they are transmutting into Londoners!
          Shocking isn’t it.

  • Sharp Ears

    Craig probably came across John Heap in his travels.

    A CMG. Of course.

    ‘When Tristan Garel-Jones, the Foreign Office minister, announced a reversal of the British policy of supporting mineral research in 1990, Heap caused a minor sensation by smoothly pointing out that this did not mean that the words “never ever” should not be attached to the 50-year minerals moratorium which had been agreed.

    Heap’s time as administrator of the British Antarctic Territory from 1989 to 1992 led to led his being appointed CMG in 1991, a signal recognition for an officer below the level of head of department or ambassador. He is commemorated in Heap Island, off Graham Land.’

    His son, Tom. was chairing a symposium at the University of Surrey last night on the subject of changing the accreditation of the Surrey Hills AONB to a National Park giving better protection. The AONB’s board consists of councillors from some of the boroughs, all Tories of course plus one from SCC and other members.
    Several hundred people attended. The film shown at the start, showing the beautiful landscapes was accompanied by a recording of Ralph Vaughan-Williams Lark Ascending, also beautiful and very moving. It was composed in the same Surrey Hills.

    The laugh was that Wates, the construction firm, was a sponsor and also the University who have applied to build over 2,000 houses on land they own which is in the Green Belt and of outstanding natural beauty lying below the Hog’s Back (A31). There is a large protest group opposing it.

    There was no irony that the one of the major discussions was on preserving the landscape, and the land too, in good order for the future generations. Currently it is under great pressure from development and dense road traffic linking to the M25 and A3 with the consequent air pollution.

    Heap was a useless chairman. Promoted himself and his BBC programming at the start. I see he has his own company – Checked Shirt Ltd. LOL Anyway, he has no chance of leaving a legacy like his father’s.

  • Casual Observer

    Average depth of the Sea of Azov, 23 feet !!!!

    The whole picture being presented is bullshit on steroids.

    As for the Black Sea in general, I seem to recall that passage of warships through the Bosphorus is governed by international treaty that requires a longish advance notification ? This being the case, the talk by the heirs of Nelson that we have seen these last days, is in the parlance of the service, nothing more than ducks farting.

      • Casual Observer

        If they intend operations in the Azov, they’d better build em with wheels on 🙂

        As for the Black Sea proper, they’re wasting money that could be more usefully employed in raising the living standards of the man on the Kiev omnibus ?

        The Black Sea will remain a Russian lake.

        • Tom Welsh

          “As for the Black Sea proper, they’re wasting money that could be more usefully employed in raising the living standards of the man on the Kiev omnibus ?”

          He took to walking back in 2014, when the omnibus was stopped by Nazis and firebombed.

    • craig Post author

      Yes, as I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

      • Tatyana

        Mr. Murray, I do understand your point. No right to detain vessels or men or to close the strait.
        But really, how is it possible to manage this conflict without detaining?

        Isn’t it silly to see a direct threat, to shoot, to save the sinking ship and wounded men and then just let them go their way, again without proper papers? In this case, why shooting even took place? Russians then should let them go their way as they are, from the very beginning.
        I’m not wise about law, I’m ordinary citizen. I’m just saying – something is wrong with this law.

    • craig Post author

      The average depth is a totally irrelevant statistic. There are major ports, and channels to them. Besides, a large ship can draw 23 feet. I expect you would find the “average depth” in the seas bordering Rotterdam is not very deep. Have you heard of channels or dredging?

      • Casual Observer

        Irrelevant Statistic ?

        Of course they have channels, it’ll be the only way to get any size of ship through. But the depth does have a bearing on the promotion of the event, especially when our own ‘Hearts of Oak’ will no doubt use it as a means to promote themselves, as was the case yesterday (I believe) where some Admiral suggested sending an RN warship that draws 48 feet to the area ?

        That was the point of this whole escapade ? To try and draw in NATO ? In which case the depth becomes very relevant ?

        Its not inconceivable that our government on the ropes might use foreign adventure in an effort to distract ? In which case what they will really mean is the Black Sea, whilst using the Azov as a distraction within a distraction ?

        • Casual Observer

          As a follow up to the above, I’m reading on the BBC now, that, NATO have faced calls to send warships to the Sea of Azov.

          Even the mighty BBC dont seem to have cottoned on to the fact that naval operations on Spiggy Lakes would be more practical than on the Azov.

          The main news is of course that Trump has cancelled his meeting with Putin this weekend. So in this whole incident has achieved its objective.

          • Paul Greenwood

            Trump will meet Putin.

            Merkel is flying Iberia from Madrid since her Government Airbus had a total comms outage and landed at Koeln/Bonn – apparently the Government jet “Konrad Adenauer” is a total disaster zone with technical malfunctions which fits modern Germany perfectly in terms of cars, trains, planes, roads, hospitals, schools……….anyway she will be late in BA so Trump will have time to meet with Putin

          • Tom Welsh

            @Paul Greenwood:

            “…apparently the Government jet “Konrad Adenauer” is a total disaster zone with technical malfunctions which fits modern Germany perfectly…”

            Ah, but does it have a permanent quota of 93 angry lustful Asian and African refugees on board at all times?

            By rights it should – just to remind Madame Kanzlerin of the consequences of her policies.

    • Mikhail

      Indeed. I am pretty sure that if a military ship entered Bosphorus unannounced, ignored radio calls, refused orders of the border guard… It would have been sunk in far less than 12 hours. To minimize delay to commercial shipping transit through it.

  • Александр

    From Russia it seems slightly different.

    First, few weeks before this incident Ukrainian military ships already passed once under Crimean bridge: they requested pass as required few hours before passage, get Russian pilot (лоцман) on board, and passed without problems.

    It was displayed as huge success of mightly Ukrainian Navy.

    Now, they skipped request step, do not follow commands from border guards patrol, and actually make dangerous maneuvers.

    Actual incident take multiple hours, not few minutes.

    As I understand, border guards have a option to allow them return back in Black Sea, but decided to arrest them because if nothing was done, Ukrainian fleet will make this “performance” as daily event.

    Moreover, for the last year, Ukrainian paramilitary ultra-right groups made multiple statements that they will “blown up” Crimean bridge.
    Such statements make border guards work very hard.

    • craig Post author

      Yes, as I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

      • Tom Welsh

        So, Craig, do you really believe that if an incident like this happened in UK territorial waters, the perpetrators would be allowed to go free immediately – or almost immediately – without any punishment and without even being detained? Do you think it is wrong to detain the offenders even until a court can be convened?

        If so I have a bridge to sell you. 😎

  • Derek

    The radio communications between the Ukrainian ships and the Russian Coast Guard can be heard here (with English translations)

    It is clear the coast guard repeatedly asked the convoy to wait for clearance before proceeding in the same way as the last time Ukrainian military vessels passed the straits in October.

    If the Russians are being pernickity about Ukrainian miltary vessels passing the straits it may be because of the repeated threats by Ukrainian politians to bomb the bridge, and because the Ukrainians have detained a Russian fishing vessel the ‘Nord’ and have charged the Captain with the ‘crime’ of visiting Crimea.

    I expect eventually a swop will be made.

    • Casual Observer

      The interjections by vessels not directly involved are particularly amusing. They might even lead one to think that many folk around the Black Sea do not hold the ‘Chocolate Magnate’ and his oppo’s in any high regard 🙂

    • craig Post author

      Yes, as I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

    • Tom Welsh

      Clearly “I am schooner 175” is destined to go down in the annals of history along with other such gems as “All your base are belong to us”.

      Doesn’t look much like a “schooner” to me. And obviously it was going a lot faster than any sailing craft could possibly go.

      I wonder why the Ukrainian kept on repeating “I am schooner 175” when he obviously wasn’t? Maybe it’s part of their training that they are obliged to lie continuously, even when it’s quite pointless, just to keep in practice.

  • Steve Hayes

    Craig, your Russophobia is showing, again. You might be well advised to reflect on nature of the Stepan Bandera idolising neo-Nazis in charge in Kiev. It might offer an insight into why the Ukrainian navy and intelligence officers behaved the way they did.

    • craig Post author

      Yes, but that makes no difference to the Law of the Sea. As I stated plainly in the article, it the Ukrainians were not following the sea lanes or notification regime, the Russians had the right to take proportionate action. But not to detain the vessels or men (other than very briefly) or to close the strait.

      • Karel

        Craig you never fail to amuse me. About five years ago, I was threatened with immediate detention at the Cologne airport because I refused to hand over a 200g package of Roquefort cheese, which the airport morons classified as “liquid”. This was clearly ilegal as according to the label, the water content, I believe, was less than 20%. Why should not be armed soldiers be detained for a much more obnoxious conduct? The is no such thing as an innocent passage of war ships that are loaded with potential killers. I cannot claim an innocent passage at the airport with a loaded gun, can I? Finally, I wonder whether you or anyone else may know whether there exists a maritime innocent passage to Gaza?

      • Tom Welsh

        Well, the word “Russophobia” is nonsense anyway. “Phobia” means “fear”, but nowadays it is almost always used to mean “hatred” or “condemnation”. So one never knows if it is meant in the correct sense (“fear”) or the incorrect sense (“hatred”).

        The best I can come up with for a hater of Russians is “misorussian”.

        • Ray Raven

          Not only do they (the mysoRusso) hate the Rooskies, they actually do fear them (ie. also Russophobes).
          And, based on other previous statements by Craig, at times he appears borderline such.

          • Ray Raven

            Direct quote from Craig (comment further down).
            “It was somewhat overtaken by the Russian annexation of Crmea.”
            The use of the term “annexation of Crimea” to describe the outcome of the Crimean ‘Indyref’ is a definite indicaton of a devout mysoRusso and Russophobe.
            Nothing borderline….
            I stand self-corrected.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Just amazing the growing aggression that the West is resorting to against Russia, starting with the sinking of the Kursk. continuing with trying to take over the security of the Sochi Winter Games, Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia and Ahkazia, trying to kill Putin, overthrowing the friendly government in the Ukraine, poisoning those Russians exiles and make it look like Moscow did it, trying to box in its ally Iran by preventing the building of canals from the Persian Gulf to the Black and Caspian Seas by even space weapons, etc. ad nauseam.

    And what has Russia done back: tried to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

    Some proportionality. Seems like John Bolton’s view.

    • Tom Welsh

      “And what has Russia done back: tried to influence the 2016 US presidential election”.

      Nope, they didn’t even do that. It wouldn’t make any sense to try – what good would it do to replace one murderous selfish hypocritical jackal with another?

      Mr Putin has often remarked that presidents come and go, but US policy remains the same. Obviously – the presidents are purely ornamental.

  • Jack

    What is scary just 100 years or so after WW1 is that the world is lead by people that seems to have no respect for what peace mean.
    Why for example is EU so inactive in finding a true solution to Ukraine/Russia crisis? They dont do a bit to ease or trying to create dialogue between the nations involved at all. Its like they are indifferent or benefitting from the crisis climate of warmongering and fear. I am afraid this climate will only get worse and then it will be too late trying to fix the situation.

    • Tom Welsh


      “What is scary just 100 years or so after WW1 is that the world is [led] by people that [seem] to have no respect for what peace [means]”.

      “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

      – George Santayana, “The Life of Reason” (1905-1906)

  • Sharp Ears

    Don’t know about the grouse, but Michael Cohen’s goose is cooked.

    ‘US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in relation to the Russia inquiry, US media report
    Mr Cohen admitted misleading lawmakers about a Trump real estate project in Russia, say reports.

    He appeared unexpectedly at federal court in Manhattan on Thursday morning. In August, Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to violating finance laws during the 2016 presidential election by handling hush money for Mr Trump’s alleged lovers.

    Thursday’s development is the latest twist in the US Department of Justice special counsel’s investigation into whether Mr Trump or his inner circle colluded with a Russian attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.’

    Michael Cohen in court: Trump ex-lawyer ‘pleads guilty’
    29th November 2018

  • BoMbY

    You are leaving the “Agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait” out of the picture?

    • craig Post author

      It was somewhat overtaken by the Russian annexation of Crmea. It also cannot override the international law on passage through straits . Not just Ukrainian ships, but ships of every nationality are entitled to innocent passage through the Kerch strait.

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        I find it incredible that a rabid supporter of Scottish independence by the most obtuse means will not even mention that the people living in the Crimea supported the referenendum on joining Russia by well over 90% of the voters, making the Kerch Strait just Russian.

        • Andrew S Carter

          [what he said]

          Craig, you appear to be experiencing some form of cognitive dissonance on this point. Referring to the Russian “Annexation” of Crimea is, as we are all aware, not only slightly trite, but also fairly revealing, as it undoubtedly casts light on your own opinion on this matter, which appears to have shaded your assessment quite significantly

          I sent you an email earlier this week detailing the movements of HMS Duncan in close proximity to the Russian naval base at Sevastopol; you are of course not under any form of obligation to either use or refer to the points I raise, but I am now certain that you are at least aware of the degree of provocation which is going on, and whether Crimea is or is not legitimately part of Russia or not is surely irrelevant to this latest incident. You know full well what is going on here – why, therefore, are you so determined to adopt such a blatantly partisan stance on the matter?

        • Antonym

          Craig prefers Crimea to be swallowed back into Ukraine and Israel into Jordan, BUT Scotland should gain independence. There is a word for this hyp…..

      • Mikhail

        Oh but it does override!

        Obligations established by a bilateral treaty cannot be cherry picked at convenience. Specific laws, such as treaties, always override general rights of parties that have voluntarily entered into them.

        Ukraine could, possibly, have a case in claiming the treaty is null and void, before sending ships through, but it never did and thus it continues to apply.

        Moreover, Ukraine lost the last shred of a basis to claim obsolescence of these rules, as they had established a precedent of treating them as continuing to apply on the previous recent instance of crossing the strait.

        Russia, on the other hand, never has denied innocent passage through Kerch strait to any ship whatsoever. Not Ukrainian, not any other.

        • Tom Welsh


          “Obligations established by a bilateral treaty cannot be cherry picked at convenience. Specific laws, such as treaties, always override general rights of parties that have voluntarily entered into them”.

          Having a long and distinguished diplomatic career behind him, much of which involved the Americans, Craig may have forgotten that only the USA is permitted to “cherry pick” obligations, insist that treaties and laws be enforced against some parties but not others, or even unilaterally to denounce a solemn agreement just because they think “they could get a better deal”.

          Even if the Kiev regime is now one of Washington’s small pets, those rights do not automatically apply to it. They are the exclusive property of “the exceptional nation”.

        • Herbie

          Imagine where we’d be now had the Crimean people not voted to rejoin Russia.

          NATO and Nazi malevolence all over the Black Sea, and on the Russian coast.

          The whole Ukraine coup nonsense has been a disaster. Just a pity some people haven’t openly admitted this obvious fact.

  • SA

    I take Craig’s point in not taking sides in fact this case illustrates how in situations of constant provocations and conflict things can quickly get out of hand and both sides can be wrong footed . The Russians clearly perceived the action of the three vessels as adversarial and threatening. Whether this is true or not is immaterial taken in the context of constant provocation from both Ukraine and NATO with regards to Russia. The Kerch bridge is also a very sensitive area and obviously a grand project the Russians must be proud of and the Ukrainians have clearly stated their intentions of destroying it.

    So the Russian sensitivity is understandable and the possibility of attempted sabotage must have been a major consideration. However the action that followed was an overreaction.

    It also transpires that the action could have been a deliberate provocation from the Ukrainian side for political purposes by Poroschenko and his handlers. It appears that if Poroshenko looses to Tymechenko that there may be a softening of the very extreme pro west and anti Russia rhetoric that the current regime indulges in. This may well run against the interest of both the extreme nationalist and also the NATO plans. Here is an analysis that takes this line and appears to be even handed.

    • Tom Welsh


      “It appears that if Poroshenko looses to Tymechenko that there may be a softening of the very extreme pro west and anti Russia rhetoric that the current regime indulges in”.

      I think Mr Porkoshenko may have been more motivated by the the prospect of suffering the fate of Mussolini – or worse – should he be voted out of office. Which would certainly happen were any honest election to be held.

  • That's what they want you to think....

    This is a similar narrative to that of Abkhazia & South Ossetia, the Russians have expanded their reach into Georgia over the last year despite the invasion/war of 10 years ago. Why do they need these regions? They have land 70 times the size of the UK with just double the population.
    It is clearly an exercise in empire building.
    I expect the coast of the Sea of Azov to be Russian in a years time. That is what Vlad the invader does!

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