Azov Again 308

Yet again, the Guardian’s Hillary cult irrationalism leads it to a wrong analysis, this time in relation to Russian actions at the Kerch strait.

To quote the Guardian:

Russian forces seized the vessels and their crew and Moscow’s refusal to return them was the reason Donald Trump offered for his decision to cancel a bilateral meeting with Putin, which had been planned for Friday morning.

As Russian actions in the Sea of Azov had been known for days, there was speculation in Washington that the real reason for the change of mind was the court appearance of Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Thursday in which he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the extent and duration of negotiations with the Kremlin about a possible Trump hotel in Moscow, continuing up to July 2016, at the height of the presidential election campaign.

This is a deliberate misreading of the situation, and actually Trump’s actions have been correct and no doubt guided by the State Department’s maritime law experts.

As explained in my last post, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea the Ukrainian navy, and any other vessel, has an absolute right of innocent passage to the Ukrainian coast through the Kerch Straits and the Sea of Azov. They do however have an obligation to comply with sea lanes and notification regimes established for reasons of navigational safety.

It appears Ukraine may not have observed the navigational safety regulations, so Russia had a right to take proportionate action for enforcement. The Russian action was a bit heavy handed, but probably did not stray over the proportionate boundary.

However Russia did not have a right to detain the vessels or the crews, other than briefly. This is specifically not allowed. So at some point in Russia’s continued detention of the vessels and crews, Russia’s actions switched from legal to illegal. The timing of Trump’s decision to cancel the Putin meeting makes perfect sense in terms of the stage at which Russia went from being in the right in the incident, to being in the wrong. In taking prisoners to Moscow Russia is very, very definitely in the wrong.

The situation is complicated by their being military personnel. Russia has to make a decision. If the claim is this was not innocent passage and the Ukrainians planned to attack the bridge, there is no legal option to treat that as terrorism. These were military ships and that would be war. Russia has either to accept that this was not an attack, or accept that it is in a state of war with Ukraine. You can’t treat military personnel from military vessels as terrorists. And Russia very definitely acted illegally in parading foreign military personnel to make statements on TV.

As expected, my last posting brought howls of protest from those of limited intellect who style themselves radicals, and who essentially take the view the Russians are the goodies and the Ukrainians the baddies, and therefore Russian actions must be legal. All of their arguments were intellectually abysmal.

The rule of international law is a very tenuous concept. It has great achievements, but has never been more under attack. There are proponents of the USA and UK, of Russia, of China, who plainly prefer a might is right approach. The hypocrisies are sickening. For example, there is no significant difference in the legal justification nor in the method of achievement between the realisation of “self-determination” in Kosovo and Crimea. Yet the people who believe the West wear the white hats will argue that Kosovo was legal and Crimea illegal, and those who believe the Russians wear the white hats will argue that Crimea was legal and Kosovo illegal. It is a sorry task to try to argue for impartial rule of law in these circumstances, as the partisan idiots will prove in comments below almost immediately.

With the secession of Kosovo and Crimea, I take the view that both were illegal, though I can see a respectable argument that both were legal. That one was legal (either one) and the other not, I can see no sensible argument whatsoever.

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308 thoughts on “Azov Again

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  • Sharp Ears

    Documentary series on Channel 5 – Warship. Featuring HMS Duncan

    Last week’s episode –
    Dramatic moment 17 Russian fighter jets swarm around a Royal Navy warship in a Black Sea raid dubbed an act of ‘brazen hostility’

    Tonight at 9 Episode 2. More of the same

    Next week Episode 3 ditto

    Mr Williamson’s PR department is working overtime

    • Andyoldlabour

      @Sharp Ears,

      I wonder at what point do the great British public listen to stuff like that, and say – “WTF is a British warship doing in the Black Sea?”
      Are we trying to start another Crimean War?

      • 30MillionReasonsToStandWithRussia

        Well said…I’d imagine the RAF would be pretty busy if the Russians sailed the Kirov up the Bristol Channel.

  • Harry Law

    Poroshenko loses his mind… “Still bound and determined that the maritime incident last weekend in the Sea of Azov portends a full-scale war with Russia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on all NATO nations and other allied states to start relocating warships en masse to the sea to “assist Ukraine” in a conflict.

    “We cannot accept this aggressive policy of Russia. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov. Germany, too, has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we do not stop him?”

    • Jack

      Kerch Strait Incident: Ex-German FM Says Kiev Seeking to Drag Berlin Into War

      That this incident was a provocation by Ukraine is not doubtful at all at this moment. Disgraceful, hopefully ukrainians see through this dangerous behavior by not supporting/voting for him, Ukraine cant afford having this provocateur as their leader!

      • Paul Barbara

        @ Jack December 3, 2018 at 21:52
        ‘…Disgraceful, hopefully Ukrainians see through this dangerous behavior by not supporting/voting for him, Ukraine cant afford having this provocateur as their leader!’
        Most won’t vote for him, but if the Martial Law is extended (perhaps due to a further provocation or False Flag’, pppro-Russian areas won’t be able to vote, and anyhow votes can be ‘manipulated’.
        Also, whoever replaces Poroshenko could well be worse – the US will certainly work towards that end.
        And it is very difficult to demonstrate openly against the Poroshenko and the Fascists:
        ‘Ukraine: On patrol with the far-right National Militia’:
        It’s one thing to march against Tommy Robinson and the ‘Football Lads’ in London, with police separating the marchers from Robinson’s street thugs (obviously not all his supporters are thugs, but plenty are), and another to march or demonstrate against the Fascists in Ukraine, where the police will cock a blind ‘un, or even support the Fascist thugs.
        In the Odessa bloodbath, the Fascist thugs were shown, armed, talking and walking with Ukraine police on the way to the pro-Russian peaceful encampment, before they were forced to flee into the Union HQ building, where many were murdered in cold blood, before the place was set alight.

    • Tom Welsh

      “We cannot accept this aggressive policy of Russia. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov”.

      All of which, as a matter of fact, have been part of Russia for over two centuries. Kiev, of course, was the capital of the original Rus – back when King Alfred, ruler of Wessex (part of what today is southern England) was dreaming that one day there might be such a nation as “England”, and many centuries before such nations as France, Spain, Germany, Italy or – most recent of all – the USA existed.

      Crimea, the most recent acquisition,was conquered by the armies of Catherine the Great in 1783 – four years before the Constitution of the USA was written. Wikipedia, with its usual charming lack of bias, has this to say: “The territory of Crimea, previously controlled by the Crimean Khanate, was annexed by the Russian Empire on 19 April [O.S. 8 April] 1783. The period before the annexation was marked by Russian interference in Crimean affairs, a series of revolts by Crimean Tatars, and Ottoman ambivalence”.

      Note “The territory of Crimea… was annexed by the Russian Empire” and “The period before the annexation was marked by Russian interference in Crimean affairs…”

      However, Wikipedia itself admits that “Slaves and freedmen formed approximately 75% of the Crimean population. In 1769 a last major Tatar raid, which took place during the Russo-Turkish War, saw the capture of 20,000 slaves”.

      So the Crimean Tatars, from whom Russia “annexed” the peninsula, were not only highly aggressive, murderous raiders and looters, but also professional slavers and slave-owners.

      Wikipedia acknowledges that “The name Crimea (via Italian, from Turkic Qirim) originates as the name of the provincial capital of the Golden Horde, the city now known as Staryi Krym”.

      It’s hard to claim that Russia did wrong by annexing Crimea, the last foothold of the successors of the Golden Horde, and thereby ending centuries of devastating terror during which “the khanate maintained a massive slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East, exporting about 2 million slaves from Russia and Poland-Lithuania over the period 1500–1700”.

      Two. Million. Slaves. And that was just from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – exclusive of Russia.

      In 1571 the Crimean Tatars had actually burned Moscow, an episode which Wikipedia typically camouflages under the misleading title “Fire of Moscow (1571)”. The article, however, tells the facts clearly enough.

      “The Fire of Moscow (1571) occurred in May of that year when the 120,000-strong Crimean[1] and Turkish army (80,000 Tatars, 33,000 irregular Turks and 7,000 janissaries) led by the khan of Crimea Devlet Giray, raided the city Moscow during the Russo–Crimean Wars. The khan set the suburbs on fire on 24 May and a sudden wind blew the flames into Moscow and the city went up in a conflagration. According to Heinrich von Staden, a German in the service of Ivan the Terrible (he claimed to be a member of the Oprichnina),” the city, the palace, the Oprichnina palace, and the suburbs burned down completely in six hours. It was a great disaster because no one could escape.” People fled into stone churches to escape the flames, but the stone churches collapsed (either from the intensity of the fire or the pressure of the crowds.) People also jumped into the Moscow River to escape, where many drowned. The powder magazine of the Kremlin exploded and those hiding in the cellar there asphyxiated. The tsar ordered the dead found on the streets to be thrown into the river, which overflowed its banks and flooded parts of the town. Jerome Horsey wrote that it took more than a year to clear away all the bodies”

      “It was one of the most severe fires in the history of the city. Historians estimate the number of casualties of the fire from 60,000 to as many over 200,000 people”.

      • Tom Welsh

        “Two. Million. Slaves. And that was just from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – exclusive of Russia”.

        Whoops. That number includes Russia – I misread the text.

  • Steven Bowles

    Craig you seem to be going out of your way to ignore a critical piece of information in this case. Russia considers the Ukrainians to have illegally entered their territory. This gives them the right to both imprison them and impound their vehicles. Ignoring this fact makes the rest of your article look biased and frankly idiotic.

    • Alex

      Steven, 100% agree. I have great respect to Craig for his brave stand against injustice, for his abilities to find facts and put them all together in logical chains forming an educated and fair stand, but I am bitterly disappointed with his latest diminishing comments towards his readers and and those who disagree with his views.
      Never-the-less, you have brought up an excellent point – I would like to hear “Maritime Law Expert Mr Murray” on his view regarding the hostile behavior of foreign military ships (as later discovered stuffed with weaponry and intelligence officers) who disobey coastguards’ instructions in the territorial waters? (gosh, I hope I don’t sound “limited intellectually” or as a “partisan idiot” and my comment is not “intellectually abysmal”)
      Mr Murray has admitted, however, that “the Russian action was a bit heavy handed” (Mr Murray, please provide us with definition of “a bit” in accordance with mentioned Maritime Law or, indeed, with any measure or “heavy-handedness”) – “but probably did not stray over the proportionate boundary” (again, please release reasons for your doubts, since being the Expert you still classify it as “probably”).
      Furthermore, Mr Murray, could you kindly provide us with exact definition/procedure/time frame of releasing military personal/equipment of those captured as a result of hostile behavior in territorial waters in accordance of Maritime Law? Finally (this should be easy), please quote any Law prohibiting Russia releasing videos of interviews of the offenders charged with illegally entering its territorial waters (although I do think it was not necessary, but since you stick so hard to the rules you should be true to yourself and point out a Law in which prohibition of such release is clearly outlined) for the full and comprehensive position of yours.

      • Dungroanin

        All been answered numeros times btl even go and read through tge comments on both articles – unless you are blinded? Are you from the land of an eye for an eye?

        • Ray Raven

          Your resonnse is utter crappe. That’s why you name yourself as Dung (shite by a different name).

          • Dungroanin

            Ray! What resonnse do you talk off?
            Glad to see that you can only spit invective – loser.

  • flatulence'

    Russians goodies, Ukrainians Baddies!? Do people really see it so simply, or does Craig just see people as so simple. Been away and come back to Craig belittling his own readers for having different views to his own. I should never have stepped through that wormhole, I’m in a parallel dimension that is the same as the last just that little bit shittier.

    • Tom Welsh


      “Russians goodies, Ukrainians Baddies!? Do people really see it so simply…?”

      Actually I do. While stereotyping is often foolish, sometimes it is absolutely correct. Of course, in this context, I do not refer to all Ukrainians but only to the members and supporters of the illegal Kiev junta and their Nazi auxiliaries.

      As a matter of fact, I have noticed that Mr Putin and the Russian government which he heads are extremely meticulous in observing both the letter and the spirit of all relevant laws. And they have positively leaned over backwards to avoid starting a real war in Ukraine.

      For their part, the Ukrainians (as defined above) have lied, cheated, deceived, stirred up racial hatred against Russians, Jews and others, formed mobs to attack civilians, burned people alive and battered them to death, and murdered several prominent antagonists by cowardly and indiscriminate means.

      While I try to be as unbiased as possible, I have come to expect decent behaviour from Russians and vile, lying, murderous begaviour from the Kiev regime.

  • Tatyana

    New details of the incident by Peter Safonov, I translate parts of his article for readers of this blog.
    The original in russian language is here

    … many talks about breaching maritime law… but two important details are still not described …
    The first is – localization of the incident. The violation made by the Ukrainians took place not in the Kerch Strait. Thus, according to the reference book of the International Hydrographic Organization Limits of Oceans and Seas, the border between the strait and the Black Sea is the line from Cape Takil in Crimea (45 ° 05′59 ″ N) to Cape Panagia on the Taman Peninsula (45 ° 08′25 ″ N). As can be seen from the detailed (with an abundance of geographic coordinates) description of the events made by the FSB, the first warnings to Ukrainian ships about entering the closed section of the territorial sea and border violations sounded when these ships were south of this line. That means, they were in the Black Sea.
    (*linked report by FSB

    Yes, then they entered the strait, but before reaching the Kerch-Yenikalsky Canal (KEK), they were driven out of there by Russian ships and almost 8 hours were blocked at anchorage No. 471 south of the strait. Then, as you know, all 3 vessels were detained when they tried to leave, referring to the Ukrainian-Russian treaty of 2003 on the use of the Sea of ​​Azov and the Kerch Strait. But after all, the violation occurred in the Black Sea so this treaty does not apply!

    • Tatyana

      The Ukrainian version of the incident is not accompanied by coordinates, but on the website of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine negotiations of the Russian command with the crews of their border ships were published during the first morning clash. There, the border guards call the coordinates where they used the bulk technique against violators, – 44 ° 56 ′ and 44 ° 58 ′ N. But these points are located exactly in the Black Sea. Thus, there was no breach of contract, on which the Ukrainian side insists.
      (*linked ukrainian source )

    • Tatyana

      The second point is the attitude of Ukraine to the passage of the Kerch Strait. So, Kiev refers to the provision on the freedom of navigation enshrined in the said agreement. However, such freedom cannot be absolute, primarily in places that are problematic for the movement of ships. So, in this strait it is objectively limited due to the combination of the intensity of navigation with frequent adverse weather conditions and the need to follow a narrow and shallow channel.

      It is precisely similar objective circumstances that constitute the basis for Germany’s navigation in the Kiel Canal, and Turkey on the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. This regulation implies both advance notice of the passage and the collection of pilotage and lighthouse fees. For example, the lighthouse fee for the passage of the Turkish straits in the Black Sea is about $ 1,000. And no one in the world says that such conditions limit the freedom of navigation.

  • Tatyana

    I can also add, that the crews of the ukrainian vessels ( 24 men ) were detained. 12 of them were already processed in the “Kievan regional court” in Simferopol on November 27.
    3 wounded men were processed in the hospital of Kerch. All of them are detained for 2 months due to the court’s resolution. They are moved to Moscow prison. One man has arm injury (* or hand, both words are the same “рука” in russian). The second has injury of his tendon in the arm (* or hand). The third man has injuries of his legs and uses special device to help walking (I don’t know the correct english word for “костыли”).

    About orders and instructions for military servicemen:

    It appears that Ukrainian National Secuity made resolution on Oktober 12, “On urgent measures to protect national interests in the South and East of Ukraine, in the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait”
    Poroshenko made decree №320/218 on November 23 to put the resolution in action.
    Ukrainian military prosecution filed a petition and already obtained judicial resolution to seizure these papers, on the basis there is risk of destroyment or hiding them.

  • Mike McPherson

    You really should consider the well argued and defensible position linked below. The Russian authorities do their best to follow international law, while, as you very well are aware, the U.K. and it’s cohorts do not. Certainly Ukraine and it’s robber baron Poroshenko are the least interested in international law, but mostly in whatever action would conceivably benefit him. I was initially very impressed with you brave, moral stance against the foreign office impresarios, but have been less so lately with you, as seems to me, very partisan comments regarding Russia, not to mention Soros. Am I being unfair?

    • Ray Raven

      No, Craig’s “very partisan comments regarding Russia, not to mention Soros” do lack substance. and when challenged on his comments, he responds by labelling his challangers and dissenters as ‘idiots’ (not surprised he was a Pommy diplomat then).
      I reckon that this blog might have been hacked by Phillip Cross, Craig’s Wikipedia mate.

  • Tatyana

    Regarding unusual and unexpected behavior of Craig Murray in this topic – I hope it is just a temporary loss of temper and not because his shoulder is dislocated, if you understand what I mean.
    Is there anybody here, who can meet him and ensure us that Mr. Murray’s shoulder is Okay?

  • nevermind

    The OSCE should now prepare to send election monitors to thr Russian speaking ‘enclaves’ within the Ukraine, as election interference can be guaranteed there.
    Poroscheatko will want to minimise their vote and boost his own. Election expenses and favours from certain Nuland sectors of the rightwing world community, should also be questioned there.

    Finally, the EU should, after all its pro Ukrainian policies adopted, be guaranteeing that ALL of the Ukraine does not freeze to death this winter for lack of gas, its no good supping with the devils if you can,t keep em warm eh.

  • Dungroanin

    There does seem to be a major rats nest that CM upset in his cellars, with his simple legalistic take on this event – ah well the amusement hasn’t ceased as they still emerge choking and crying – ‘tell me it ain’t so Meester Murray!’

    Provocation by the bully-boy is supposed to get a reaction that will be used to murder the reactionary and claimed as self-defence or fair-fight. – the bully boys in the incident.

    If the Russians get provocked into illegality the massed forces of nato will close down on their free passage to!

    Remember how the Iranians have been goaded many times by nato forces – not afraid to put their troops in exactly the same situations as the ukrainians were undoubtedly encouraged to do.

    ‘Secretary Michael R. Pompeo met today with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin as part of the U.S. – Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission. The two leaders expressed their mutual concern over Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, occupation of Crimea, and broader efforts to undermine Ukraine’s stability. Secretary Pompeo underlined America’s steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They discussed Ukraine’s progress in implementing critical reforms necessary to fight corruption, strengthen the country’s democratic institutions, and withstand Russian pressure. They agreed the reforms will further Ukraine’s Western integration, and Secretary Pompeo pledged continued support as Ukraine moves toward a more prosperous and democratic future.’

    That was a go go go from Pompeo a week before the innocent transit ‘incident’!
    Which happened a week before the G20.
    At the same time as the muddle over MbS.
    While the Russians and Turks tightened the noose on the Fukus proxies in their farcical defeat in Syria – while they shelled Syrian civilians with chemicals, to get another reaction!

    Russia too may one day turn up at the saloon ready to provoke the fight with the hired gunslinger and i expect the showdown won’t last long!

    Anyway – the news cycle has turned. Macron and May are trapped as sliced bread in a toaster with no control… there is smoke rising!

  • Alex

    Deja vu: how Ukrainian border guards shot Turkish schooner

    On November 25, the boats and the tugboat of the Ukrainian Navy in some sense repeated the fate of the Turkish poachers on March 22, 2000. 18 years ago at the Cape Tarkhankut Ukrainian border patrol ships sunk one Turkish fishing vessel, and two captured. At the same time, one person was killed.
    Original post in Russian
    Dear Craig, do you think this was a “proportionate action” ?
    If not, why then “the whole civilized world” is not excited and not imposed sanctions on Ukraine.
    Sorry for the bad English, as I am Russian.

  • Vlad

    “Russia has either to accept that this was not an attack, or accept that it is in a state of war with Ukraine”

    According to the international law if Russia accepts that it is in a state of war with Ukraine, will it have the right to launch military actions against the Ukrainian troops or such actions will be considered as an unprovoked aggression on the part of Russia?

  • Tatyana

    Poroshenko tried to call Putin on the phone, Putin wouldn’t talk. As he said “… I do not want to take part in his election campaign…”
    This rather bewilders me, because Putin is far from childish behavior, also, presidential elections in Ukraine will be in March.

    Then I googled a little and here is what I found:
    Left side is the map depicts ukrainian regions where martial law has been implied, red colour. The right side is the same regions, which showed less then 50% Poroshenko supporters in 2014 elections, grey colour. Mostly regions with high % of russian speaking population, including Donbass.

    Pres. elections are in March and martial law is implied for 30 days only. How can it influence? Bingo! The timing is perfect!

    “…On November 29, the Central Election Commission approved recommendations to cancel the elections in the OTG (* united local communities, such as villages or small towns) in 10 areas where martial law was introduced. These are 45 primaries and 7 by-elections, scheduled for December 23, as well as the 19 mid-term elections to be held in the coming weeks…”

  • Arby

    I’ve heard the unargued argument that Russia’s benign annexation of Crimea, after a democratic referendum in Crimea in which the majority of the population voted for that, was illegal. But I’ve never seen it spelled out. Until I do and it convinces me that the annexation was illegal, I’ll continue to believe that that annexation was legal.

  • alasdairB

    Time to give an update / summary on the Salisbury Affair before it completely erased forgotten about by MSM & Government

  • John Gardner

    Dear Craig,
    on 14/3/18 the Ukrainian navy detained a Russian fishing vessel operating 14 kilometres off the Ukrainian coast, taking the ship into Berdjansk harbour. They were accused of violating Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainians claimed they were ‘Ukrainian’ because all of them were from Crimea (now Russia). (The agreed zone of sea sovereignty reaches only as far as 5 km off the coast.) On 30/10/18 7 of them were exchanged against people detained in Russia. The captain, however, hasn’t been released as of today. Similarly, the vessel hasn’t been released is now pencilled in for auction in Ukraine!
    Does any of the above make you have second thoughts about your comment?

  • Walter

    Ukrainian military personnel at the Strait were undertaking to initiate a war of aggression against RU. That’s a crime… RU is giving the poor sods on the boats a gift by simply ignoring this fact and instead choosing to regard their action as a lesser crime – violation of the border…

  • michael norton

    Navy man put in charge of Russian military intelligence GRU after predecessor’s death
    There has so far been no official announcement regarding Kostyukov’s new job. If reports are confirmed the 43-year-old will be the first Navy sailor to lead the agency since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    This seems to be upgrading the importance of the Navy?

  • Tatyana

    I wonder what is legal ground for the new Ukrainian government?
    How does it comply with the law? Is it legal to grasp power with the help of armed forces, to throw away democratically elected pres. Yanukovich?
    And, most interesting, what if Yanukovich suddenly jumped out to run in elections? Is he still president? Is he still even citizen of Ukraine?

    • michael norton

      I had also thought like you, Tatyana, Porky is not going to win the Presidency, again, unless at the gun barrel, so if Victor came back and stood for election, what would happen, if he won, would the Americans put up with it?

      • nevermind

        If Poroshenko provokes a war, with ‘friendly’ help, he will cancel elections and try his best to look good, harass the areas were martial law had been called and sit on a.big canon.

        If he attacks Donetzk, who will support them?

        • Tatyana

          I hope, russians will support Donbass in the case of war.
          It is not nessessarily by state military, there are a lot of simple russians who will go and fight there. Really.

          Many russian citizens have relatives in Donbass and many are just sick of what’s going on.
          We have obligatory military service, so men 19 years and older know how to hold a gun.
          There are experienced retired soldiers, veterans who know politics and who are eager to get their hands over Poroshenko.

          I do hope that ukrainians just vote for peace and negotiations.

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