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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  • Peter

    With the secession of Kosovo and Crimea, I take the view that both were illegal

    that is exactly the point that Putin made.

    The case of Crimea seems much closer to the case of Quebec seceding from the Canadian federation than that of Kosovo. There were strong arguments made that the lands ceded to be governed by Quebec under the terms of federation should be returned upon a positive vote and subsequent declaration of independence.
    The same arguments could be made in the case of Crimea, as it was also ceded to Ukraine under the terms that existed in the USSR in 1954.
    Following a vote to separate, Crimea’s status was also doubtful as remaining part of Ukraine, and the subsequent various attempts by Crimea for either outright independence or the status of an autonomous region showed that the population had no desire to be further part of Ukraine. And as far as I recall, the highest court in the RF declared the gifting of Crimea illegal under Soviet Law and some other non Russian experts agreed to that.

    While Crimea separated peacefully after a popular vote of all its residents, the unsanctioned Nato actions in Serbia led to a situation where the then Assembly of Kosovo declared independence. Since the ICJ declared the declaration legal, I can only wonder why this is not the case in Crimea, that happened under much more peaceful circumstances and a high approval rating by the whole population.

  • Sharp Ears

    The Black Sea cookery book featured on the Food Programme this morning sounded interesting.
    9.50 in on

    Black Sea
    Dispatches and Recipes – Through Darkness and Light
    Caroline Eden

    Another was a Palestinian cookery book- Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan

    ‘A dazzling cookbook with vibrant recipes, captivating stories and stunning photography from Palestine ‘A moving, hugely knowledgeable and utterly delicious book’ Anthony Bourdain’
    A big bowl-full of delicious Palestinian recipes, plus lots of insightful and moving stories… …’

  • mikjall

    It seems pretty evident that this was a deliberate provocation designed to boost Poroshenko’s disappearing political support and, perhaps (and in my own view, probably, although I can’t prove it), to undermine Trump’s prospective meeting with Putin. Armed vessels were sent into the strait without obtaining the required permission and failed to respond, when challenged, to the Russian coastal authorities, leaving their intentions deliberately ambiguous. The detention of Ukrainian crew members, illegal or not, seems to have revealed that they were under orders to create this provocation, while Poroshenko struts around in military kit, spouting groundless invasion scares and putting the Ukraine under martial law. Under the circumstances, Craig, your analysis seems a little simplistic, especially for one who is far from naive. I’m actually shocked. Trump himself, although he may have “done the right thing”, seems to understand (judging by his remarks) that Putin — and he, himself — were sucker-punched. Merkel has gone off the deep end — perhaps because she’s looking to postpone her impending political demise, which at this point cannot come soon enough for me.

  • mikjall

    PS – your invitation to assess the matter in terms of whom we think are “the good guys” (white hats) and whom we think are “the bad guys” (black hats) is kindergarten level and is an insult to your readership. This from the author of Murder in Samarkand?

    • Ian Gibson

      Er… he’s doing the exact opposite, decrying those who assess the matter in that way. How on earth could you read it that way?

      • Ort

        I find mikjall’s phrasing “your invitation to assess the matter” to be clumsy and misleading, but in fact what you imply is righteous “decrying” is indeed a direct and explicit insult to readers.

        The vigorous dissent seems to have touched a nerve. In defending his position, Craig has not spared the snark in declaring that anyone who does not accept and endorse both his selective factual matrix and analysis must be thick as a brick.

        • Ian Gibson

          My point is that Craig’s post – I haven’t waded through the comments yet – was the diametric opposite of what mikjall stated, in that Craig is stating that the legal case stands on its own feet irrespective of whose side you are on – hence his comparison of Ukraine and Kosovo, with a reserved judgement that he says is open to challenge – but seeing ‘us’ or ‘them’ as the ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’ doesn’t impinge on that – which is what mikjall accuses Craig of inviting us to do.

  • giyane

    Radio 4 World at One had a series of male and female warmongers pontificating on this subject.
    Am I alone in finding female political aggression disturbing? Is there something about a microphone which automatically transforms a woman into a nuker without passing Go or going to jail? In which case could they not be interviewed in an anonymous bonding circle where their views might be moderated by reality and some shame? The female of the species eventually applies their motherly defenciveness of her babies to the dogma of her party. No attempt whatsoever to moderate their strident views.

    • Jack


      I have noticed this too (about women), not to make it it into a gender issue but women are no more peaceful than men when it comes to foreign policy it seems, thats for sure. There are clones of Madeleine Albright all over the west, mostly young, liberal women that have a special place for warmongering of some bizarre reason.

      • Tom Welsh

        Two comments:

        1. It has been suggested that, in our culture at least, female leaders feel strong pressure to be “more virile than the men” and to warmonger more strongly.

        2. I remember, as a boy, reading P.C. Wren’s “Beau Geste”, which deals with the French Foreign legion and its battles in North Africa. According to Wren, the thing the legionnaires were most terrified of was falling into the hands of the Touareg or Berber women. It was understood that, if a wounded soldier had to be left behind, he should always be shot.

      • Tatyana

        “Yours” female politicians are tough towards foreign nations. “Ours” (russian) are just stupid 🙂
        Nataly Sokolova lost her position after saying that 3500 roubles is enough money to buy food for a month. It was discussion on “product basket”, guaranteed by the State. She refused to try it herself, because “her status of a minister wouldn’t let her do it”. Her monthly salary is 190 000 roubles, yet she applied for finance help from the state budget every year.

      • Tatyana

        Olga Glatskih another woman in russia with long stupid tongue. Being Director of Youth Affairs Department she answered a question about financing “children projects”.
        She said literally “the State didn’t ask you to give birth to your children. Why do you think that State has obligations to you? It’s your parents, who have obligations. The State didn’t ask them to give birth to you, either”.

        • Tatyana

          To be fair, it’s not about gender. Sardana Avksentieva is a popular woman-mayor of Yakutsk city, very reasonable with public purse, cancelling luxary cars and banquets for her admincistration.
          I wonder, how long will she keep her position?

    • Tom Welsh


      “Am I alone in finding female political aggression disturbing?”

      Ooh, do be careful – remarks like that could get you a prison sentence in the UK.

      Although I agree with you.

      • Tatyana

        Me too agree. I remember Nikki Haley in UN SC

        – oh, Mr. Chairman, we discuss it and again discuss it… it’s time for action… poore gassed children… these men have no heart… how even dare they to look in our eyes…

        (about Douma, Syria, that chemical attack that we still have no information on where the bodies are and if any chlorine was found)

      • Jo1

        Well, hell, Hillary was a bloody scary woman!

        I kind of agree about the aggression. In Commons debates I was astounded by the number of female MPs who backed Blair on Iraq and by the number keen to get caught up in Libya and then in Syria so many years later.

    • Molloy



      Hmmm. . . . gender generalising (tempting in this case) rarely helpful. Dare I say.

      These are, apparently, human beings who have lost their way. They imagine murder and warmongering and killing the poor to be big and clever.

      Despite the ‘female aggressor’ token sop awarded by the patriarchy and by the 0.1%, they are complicit in their own abuse.
      For me, gender is irrelevant. Pure evil is simply pure evil. Sláinte


  • Sharp Ears

    Nuland is the CEO of this outfit. Center for a New American Security. Better not mistake that for PNAC – Project for the New American Century!

    Murdoch’s son James is on the Board with some paleocons.

    There is a Board of Advisors, 31 more of them.
    Their so called reports link to CNN, Foreign Policy and the like –

  • Bill Rollinson

    Could it be that Ukraine is at war with Russia, not the other way round, as you indicated? Hence Poroshenko’s quick rush to Martial Law.
    This could be the deciding factor in Russia keeping the crew and ships, which would make it ‘legal’!

    I’m not familiar with the Kosovo incident, I was too busy working back then and any information now is difficult to discern, but I do know Crimeans asked Russia to ‘take them back’, or they’d be treated as people of Donbass are. This ‘Referendum’ was overseen by UN independent witnesses, but because USA don’t recognise it, everyone has to fall behind them?

    PS; Where was our ‘we kept the peace loving EU’ when America bombed the shit out of Yugoslavia?

  • Carnyx

    I’d basically argue that both Kosovo and Crimea are legal, but I do not think they are the same. Crimea unified with Russia, Kosovo is supposedly independent. Kosovo is not a viable state, it does not have the resources to look after itself, it must therefore survive by organised crime and/or foreign aid. In Crimea this is not an issue since it unified with Russia, although it’s probably better placed to be independent than Kosovo. Kosovo is a viable part of Albania though, but if it became one, that might lead to more wars.

    The injustice to Serbs in the Yugoslav wars was that the west insisted on preserving the borders of the republics and did so in a way as to roll back Serbian influence (as they were designed by Tito with the same intent although for different reasons). Krajina or Bosnian Serbs were to be made a powerless minorities in independent Croatia and Bosnia, when the last independent Croatia (then including Bosnia) conducted a genocide against Serbs in WW II (indeed twice if you include WW I). If they can take away part of Serbia because the majority living there want that, why can’t you do the same for the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia? It’s a complete double standard. As it was, the Krajina Serbs were ethnically cleansed from Croatia, but they basically won autonomy in Bosnia.

    Lets bring in Chechnya too, here were have a part of Russia declaring independence, but it ends up in a civil war in which Jihadis start attacking neighbouring republics. I think in this circumstance Russian intervention was justified.

    Overall, I’d argue any viable territory in which the majority of residents desire independence (so long as these residents haven’t disposssessed another population in living memory), or to unify with another state, should be allowed to do so, but they must be vaible and mature. “Viable” requires them to have enough resources to look after themselves, (they cannot for example be just a single border town), and “mature” means they are capable of self governing as stable state that gets on peacefully with it’s neighbours.

    As such, although personally, I think the successions of both Kosovo and Crimea are justifiable, I think there is a respectable argument that they are different and that Kosovo wasn’t justifiable.

    • Blissex

      «I’d basically argue that both Kosovo and Crimea are legal, but I do not think they are the same.»

      Indeed I reckon that they are both legal and not the same, but I think that they are not the same for different reasons:

      * The kosovar independentists were and are set on a an ethnically pure form of independence, with ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo minorities; the legal right to independence includes the respect of minority rights.

      * In order to enforce the right to independence and ethnic cleansings of the kosovars a sovereign european country was invaded and its capital bombed for almost a year, while I am not aware of any russian bombing of Kiev nor of russian invasion and occupation of large parts of the Ukraine.

      So for me both the kosovars and the crimean had the right to independence, but the kosovar argument was severely tainted by circumstances.

    • John A

      Crimea and Kosovo were both about US bases. The US wanted the Black Sea naval base and caused all the upheaval in Ukraine towards achieveing this. They had even asked for tenders for redevelopment work in Crimea for US personnel. Russia absolutely could not allow this.
      Kosovo was also about US wanting a new base. They got it. Camp Bondsteel, the largest US overseas base (I think) from which the US directs operations against all sorts of ‘enemies’.
      What the residents of the former Yugoslavia and Crimea want is irrelevant to US imperialism. Bases are all that matter to the US MIC.

    • Ralph

      brzezinski was born in Warsaw, his family was from Galicia (the mad part) in the then E Poland, now ukraine. He had a hatred for Russia. In 1998 he stated “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.” This alligns with the doctrine in PNAC, using ukraine against Russia.

  • Ewan Maclean

    Mr. Murray,
    Once all feathers have unruffled themselves, it would be good to have the benefit of your long experience as a diplomat. You point out that international law requires Russia either to declare war on Ukraine or release the Ukrainian citizens who encroached illegally on its territorial waters. If you were Sergei Lavrov’s senior diplomat, what would you advise? Clearly not declare war. But here is a hostile power repeatedly threatening and occasionally attacking Russia. This latest incursion was not some routine attempt to maintain freedom of passage through the straits. It was a quite deliberate provocation or act of aggression. Does Russia just release the latest crew, rebuke Ukraine, and wait for the next attack, and the next? What could Russia do to deter further aggression, consistent with its international obligations? In the real world. Genuine question.

    • michael norton

      Do Russia and Ukraine have Ambassadors with each other?
      If they did, presumably Russia would cal in the Ukraine one and Ukraine would call in the Russian one, then their respective governments would find out what’s afoot?

      • Tatyana

        There are “chargé d’affaires” I don’t know if it is correct translation of the position. Literally it means “temporary attorney”… sort of…

      • Ewan Maclean

        Ukraine is seeking to provoke Russia (at least the government of President Poroshenko is). Russia is seeking to avoid conflict (but President Putin cannot be seen to abandon the Novorossiyans and cannot tolerate any assault on Russian territory). Meetings of ambassadors would do nothing unless the Russian ambassador could deliver a credible threat. What would such a threat be? President Putin has already deterred serious aggression by pointing out the military realities. What would stop niggling attacks such as the bombing of parts of the Crimean electricity supply, threats to the Kerch bridge, and annoyances like the run-around with Ukrainian naval vessels (whose orders were to enter Russian territorial waters undetected – yes, they are that stupid, or that brazen in their attempts to get a response)?

          • michael norton

            If Mr. Putin wanted to de-escalate the situation with Ukraine, he could open up the Methane flow
            this would give the Ukrainians some income and some hope.
            They could also revert to allowing each others civilian aircraft for over flights, this would again be beneficial to both countries.
            They both need to step back from the edge.

          • Tatyana

            Michael, I’m sorry I can’t agree with you on the Methane flow. I remember quite well ukrainian premier-minister Timoshenko going every cold season to Russia for negotiations. Ukraine doesn’t like to pay, it was always talking of brotherhood and so on, when it need gas in pipes. Russia credited for the first two or three times.

            At last, we need money too and could not allow it no longer. Pre-payment demanded. Then, Europe were freezing and making complaints, that Russia didn’t pump pre-paid volume into the tube. It appeared Ukraine simply made a branch in the tube and stole the gas for themselves.
            You can easily google the story.

            Up to this time Ukraine is suiting russian Gasprom in european courts, trying to enlessen the debt by penalization for lost income.

  • Jackrabbit

    @Craig Murray: Is Russia’s action justified by the fact that the Ukrainian ships were military instead of civilian? Does Ukrainian anti-Russian rhetoric and antagonism play any additional role (when the ships are military)?

    As I understand it, “innocent passage” applies to both military and civilian ships. If these were civilian, one would expect them to be released quickly as Craig states. But these were military ships.

    Think of a similar difference on land. A military brigade crossing a border despite plenty of warnings is likely to be treated differently than a tour group doing the same.

  • Paul Damascene

    As a proponent of Scottish sovereignty, Craig has set the bar in considering the declarations of independence of both Crimea and Kosovo illegal, or probably so. I gather, then, that international law is taken to be the final arbiter of all aspirations to self-determination. Having been through this in Canada, we had to at least contemplate a formal declaration of independence by Quebec that did not conform to the rules as set forth and interpreted by Canada.

    Not a legal scholar, I wonder if there is an analogy here to certain acts of civil disobedience being considered morally righteous insofar as the case can be made that the overall regime of laws, or a particular law, is unjust. Similarly, I presume that most revolutions would be considered illegal by the State, which wouldn’t necessarily end the moral discussion of that revolution’s rightness. Or would it?

    Perhaps Craig would advocate that an act of separation can be illegal in international law but legitimate in some other way. What would the threshold of legitimacy be for Scottish independence, if a British interpretation of international law declared separation illegal?

    • lysias

      If Crimea’s secession was illegal, how is that consistent with Craig’s support of Catalan separatism?

      • Jo1

        Well, yes, quite!

        I’m bemused by much of what Craig is saying in this article and the previous one to be honest. I’m not impressed either that he’s calling people idiots. I do hope he isn’t going to start believing that he alone is the authority on everything.

        It seems clear that the Ukraine president is seeking to provoke a serious reaction from Russia, one which will, in turn, bring western governments to Ukraine’s aid. I gather his approval ratings are currently desperate. Craig’s views therefore surprise me.

  • Entropy Wins

    “The situation is complicated by their being military personnel.”

    Simple assertion that personnel are military doesn’t cut it. There are several legal requirements that have to be met – off the top of my head – the people have to be wearing military uniforms, they have to carry valid identity tags (or equivalent), plus others ?

    At least two of the people detained are SBU officers (Ukrainian equivalent of MI5/MI6). They are not military officers. Also, the most active gung-ho Ukrainians are Neo-Nazis from the volunteer battalions. At least one of the volunteer battalions, Pravy Sektor, is a designated terrorist organization in Russia. These are also not military. I expect the Russians will be fully checking that the individuals really are military members and those not will be subject to appropriate Russian law e.g. Part 3 of Article 322 of the Russian Criminal Code relating to illegally crossing the Russian border.

    • Jo

      And possibly checking whether rhey mignt have committed crimes as recorded in the “white book” re Donbass.

  • Tatyana

    There is difference in “western” and “russian” approach to solving international issues. We are more concerned about safety and human lives. The West is more concerned about legal ground for actions.
    In this conflict, Mr. Murray, it was not ” might is right approach “, I assure you. It is not “limited intellect” that makes me support the detention of ukrainian vessels and men.
    I don’t deny the rule of law, either.
    I just don’t put it above human lives, safety and peace in the region.
    It is the third option to add to the 2 given by you.

    Human history knows a lot of laws, including slavery and Nazies. Laws are written by people, sometimes they change, sometimes get cancelled or fixed… Lets be honest – laws are imperfect and do not cover every tiniest detail. In similar situations, as always, it is just a question of international recognition.

    If you breach a law, the situation can be fixed.
    If you destroy human life you can’t fix it up.
    Easy choice.

    • Jo

      And to me a while lotta common sense.took ace at Kerch….we remember Tony Blair was a lawyer with wmd and uk consitutional lawyers trying to justify it or keep loopholes open to avoid culpability.

      • Jo

        And PS …has Craig commented on the “legality” of ukraine seizing civilian ships…taking captives…stealing the cargo and actually selling the ships …when it has not declared war…or ipso facto maybe it has!

    • Borncynical


      Being a humanitarian first and foremost, I agree with your comments.

      “The West is more concerned about legal ground for actions”….except for military assaults on Syria and handling the Skripal case, to name but two exceptions. Western governments’ demonstrated skill at hypocrisy when it comes to international legalities would make their reaction to the Kerch incident particularly laughable if it wasn’t potentially so serious.

  • Wikikettle

    No doubt some of the Ukrainians who fought with Hitler returned. Its amazing that the Russians who lost millions at the hands of the Germans and their allies didn’t invade all of Ukraine after the Coup. We in the West will never leave Russia alone or let it be independent of our global banking grip. ‘The Great Game’ to contain the Bear and prevent warm water port access is still being attempted. What’s different now from the Cold War is that the Bear is joined by the Dragon and the Persians. China is in the same position as Japan was in the 30’s. The US blockaded Japan then and is now trying to surround China now. But today China has Russia and Iran for its oil. Putin and that brilliant Lavrov will soon court Germany and even Japan. Even France can see the writing on the wall. If India resists US in favour of making peace with China, the US Empire falls.

      • Tatyana

        What breaks my heart is – today we sacrifice more russian people. In Donbass. For the sake of law.
        Somehow it is possible in reality, that people are killed for their desire to “divorce” with their government.
        Putin cannot do anything, because alternative is WW III.
        Damned rule of law.
        Crimea was lucky to be autonomy, thus finding a pretext for leaving Ukraine.

  • Sharp Ears

    Another silly Russophobia story from Hermitage. Not the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg but the HQ for the 77th Brigade in Berkshire.

    ‘Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “We take the security of our bases and personnel incredibly seriously.
    “If a member of the public sees anyone acting suspiciously in or around a military base it should be reported to the police as a matter of urgency.” ‘

    Russian TV crew spark military alert with ‘suspicious behaviour’ at UK barracks

    Does Mr Siraziev come from the same agency as the vicar known as ‘Lynn’ on Newsnight the other night?

    ‘The 77th Brigade is a British Army formation, created in January 2015 by renaming the Security Assistance Group which was created under the Army 2020 concept. It is based at Denison Barracks in Hermitage, Berkshire and was operational in April 2015.’

    • Paul Greenwood

      That the British Army has a Black Ops Division is farcical.

      “The brigade was named the 77th in tribute to the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade, which was part of the Chindits, an Indian Army guerilla warfare force led by Orde Wingate”

      What an outrage ! To name desk jockeys after a behind-the-lines combat group in Burma fighting the Japanese. Insult from a pathetic military of effete nonentities. What a degradation

  • Gary

    I agree, the reporting on Trump lacks any kind of journalistic integrity whatever. He is often wrong, often immoral and mostly obnoxious. but there’s no need to egg the pudding by adding opinion INSTEAD of fact. And that is happening frequently on television news, BBC in particular.

    There is a most DEFINITE campaign by the BBC (or perhaps THROUGH the BBC) to portray Russia as our enemy now. I can’t defend a lot of what they are doing, but I could say that of a lot of our allies as well.

    Take for example the latest in a series of ‘fake news’ pieces by the BBC aimed at Russian journalists. The latest is them picking up on a ‘Daily Mail’ story (yes, The Daily Mail – itself banned from Facebook’s ‘Trending’ section for ‘fake news’) The story seems to say that Russian spies are pretending to be journalists. Their story quote a Channel One piece where the journalist in question filmed outside a ‘Military Installation’ and asked at the gatehouse to be admitted (showing his journalists credentials) to follow up on a story. They say that the TV piece showed The Royal Signals and that they were mis identified in the piece as working for our Psychological Warfare Unit. (deliberately)

    Apparently Russian spies must be the worst in the world, imagine just asking to be let in and filming in plain sight outside and THEN actually BROADCASTING it on TV!!! That and the misuse of an army recruitment video makes me think these guys must work for the Daily Mail rather than be spies or actual ‘journalists’ (I’m joking of course – Russian journalists are as lazy as ours)

    What’s disturbing is that the BBC are running this, on top of their previous story. The previous story was showing how ‘green screen’ could (was) being used by journalists to show events that hadn’t actually happened and were manipulating public opinion by flat out making it up.

    Now I don’t doubt that this could happen. But, if Russia’s doing it, why wouldn’t I believe that our own State Broadcaster wouldn’t do it? Because if they’re running deliberate propaganda stories against the Russians, against Trump (honestly, there is NO need, he’s a buffoon!) then why wouldn’t they start making up events too??

    And it’s interesting you mention Crimea. I hear daily on the BBC of how Russia ‘annexed’ Crimea but I ALSO remember them reporting on the referendum in Crimea too. I remember them reporting on the result, which was obviously overwhelmingly in favour of separating from Ukraine. Were I a Crimean, with close ties to Russia and Right Sector were overthrowing my government I think I might well decide to join forces with the Russians. They might make arguments on the legality, but there WAS a vote. Just because you don’t like the outcome you can’t say they ‘annexed’ the country.

    NB I don’t think the Russians can do no wrong. Putin is running a country riddled with corruption, and has flexed his muscles, wrongly, in the past. But we are being sold a pup. It’s like they WANT a new cold war, if not a HOT war with the Russians. Of course, if they DID, then it would be a LOT easier to sell gas to Europe which had been ‘fracked’ in both the USA and UK. Instead of countries like Germany, Ukraine and others buying from the Russians. That would make a LOT of people in US and UK very rich, wouldn’t it?

  • jjc

    Craig is fully correct, if in a limited technical way, and it is in no one’s interest to disavow the letter of international law. That said, it is clear a state of hybrid War has been in effect between Russia and Ukraine since the USA, UK, and Canada declared the illegal and unconstitutional formation in Ukraine’s parliament late February 2014 to be somehow “legitimate”. In context, Russia’s so-called “sea attack” on the Ukrainian boats is a minor incident within a much larger pool of violations of law, not least of which is the continued use of large munitions against residential areas in Donetsk and Lugansk. Focusing on the unlawful nature of the Kerch Strait incident, without placing it within the larger context of the completely unnecessary almost five-year hybrid war, serves the interests of instigators of this conflict in the informational aspects of this war. The recognition of the unconstitutional putsch was a crime against the peace of the region, and was therefore the most serious breach of international law in this instance.

  • certa certi

    Maritime law isn’t static. It’s always changing and always subject to interpretation. The tribunal’s recent determination that favored the Philippines in the SCS also redefined the meaning of a ‘rock,’ a precedent with implications for previous US and Australian claims elsewhere. If Poroshenko believes he has a strong case Russia breached the law he can always ask the court for an adjudication. If he doesn’t he probably doubts the strength of his case, or he’s worried about setting a potentially unwanted legal precedent.

    Re Crimea and secession referendums in general. The easiest way to prevent endless debate about legalities that could lead to conflict is to invite the UN to supervise a ballot process on terms acceptable to the parties. That’s what we did in East Timor. Russia and Ukraine could agree to do this any time they wished.

    • Tatyana

      Certa certi
      I was thinking about new referendum in Crimea, because it would really help sorting the things out. I’m surprised to know there are objections.
      Ukrainian law, ukrainian constitution, it has no legal way for this. None can vote for independence from Ukraine. They clearly say, that russian part of population can take their bags and go to Russia, if not happy. Ukraine is for ukrainians.

      Another objection is that Russia is standing behind with weapons influencing the outcome.
      Yet another objection is referendum is impossible at annexed occupied territory.
      And, Russia has swiped the population, substituted patriotic ukrainians with russians.
      International visits to Crimea were prohibited by EU and US from the very beginning, and russian is not a trusted source of information.

      • certa certi

        ‘I’m surprised to know there are objections’

        Jeez you’re easily surprised. Xmas is coming beware false Santas.

        Recent events in the sea of Asoz in no way alter the fact that Russia was and is an aggressor.

        • Tatyana

          🙂 false Santas are nothing compared to Moscow gardeners 🙂

          Fresh humor story from Russia:

          Imagine a company, which produces something used in Russian Army. There is security service and web-traffic is controlled inside the company.
          Alarm! Admin! Logs! Someone tries to access !
          It appears to be an elderly employee Petrovich. He lives in Moscow. His hobby is gardening ( russian word for “gardener” is “sadovod”. Garden – sad).
          Petrovich tried to find “Moscow Sadovod” web-site, but his memory failed him, so he just typed different variations of the word combination.
          *The correct address is
          Have a nice day, dear fellow readers! My best regards from Russia!

  • Sharp Ears

    Note the future tense by the state broadcaster here in this press release from MI6.

    ‘MI6 chief uses speech to issue warning to Russia
    7 hours ago
    Earlier this year, Alex Younger, right, joined his French and German compatriots to issue a joint call for continued cooperation after Brexit
    The leader of the UK’s MI6 intelligence service will warn Russia “not to underestimate our capabilities” in a rare speech later.
    Alex Younger will describe how MI6 exposed the perpetrators of the Novichok poisoning in Salisbury.

    He will warn that Britain’s adversaries view themselves as being in a state of “perpetual confrontation” with the UK.
    And he will talk of the need for “fourth-generation espionage”, fusing human skills with technical innovation.

    At a speech at St Andrews University Mr Younger will encourage students to consider joining MI6, saying tackling modern adversaries who use new technology to probe UK institutions and defences will require “a mindset that mobilises diversity and empowers the young”.’


  • Ngoyo

    Your argument depends on what scope the word “innocent” is given. You assume that only an intended attack on the bridge can be construed as not innocent. In fact there are a range of possible actions short of an attack on the bridge that would be not “innocent”. And this the Russian investigation must determine. The refusal of the Ukrainian ships to obey the entirely legal Russian rules for passage (which they had previously obeyed), even when confronted by Russia forces suggests a not entirely “innocent” motive for passage. This behaviour coupled with prior public statements by Ukrainian politicians that Ukraine should destroy the bridge makes it very probable that this was no innocent passage. The Russians thus acted reasonably, proportionately and well within their rights. As to holding the sailors I see no problem so long as their investigation is continuing.

    Ukraine clearly acted illegally by refusing to obey the legal Russian transit rules and provoking a dangerous military standoff that could have led to war. On the other hand, did Russia act illegally by parading Ukraine’s provocateur sailors on TV? These sailors may be military personnel but they are not prisoners of war as there is no war between Russia and Ukraine. They may actually be just criminals, subject to the Russian penal code. This must also be determined by Russia’s investigation. In the mean time it seems to me Russia is clearly free to hold them.

    • copydude

      While there seems little doubt about Poroshenko’s provocation, a question is: ‘Was he put up to it?’

      It may be considered a political gift to a beleaguered President, but it doesn’t come without a cost to an already ailing economy.

      Mariupol is Ukraine’s tenth largest city, home of a huge iron and steelworks and a hub for valuable grain exports. A slowdown in port activity is hardly welcome. BNE reports that the port of Berdyansk hasn’t seen any ships for 4 days. It’s quite possible Putin thinks, well, having taken the hit for the incident, there’s no hurry to return to business as usual.

      When the US put the missile shield in Poland, Russia closed the sea border with Poland at the Kaliningrad lagoon and it’s been closed ever since, sinking the port of Elblag.

      Since the EU countries aren’t rushing to fill the Black Sea with warships – Germany has rejected the notion outright – Mr P also stands to lose some face. However, he can extend martial law if there is still a perceived threat.

      Tymoshenko is a threat, though not to Ukraine. She is anti-IMF and has called the gas price hike ‘genocide’. She has threatened to prosecute Poroshenko over the deal if elected. It’s almost certain she would do some deals with Russia to fund her reforms – there really isn’t any other quick fix – ushering in a detente that the West doesn’t want, no matter how painful the current situation is to ordinary Ukrainians.

      Polls taken at the beginning of November show that 86% of Ukrainians don’t support the Government, the President or the Prime Minister. But it’s hard to believe that the US will stand by and watch their man become toast.

    • Dungroanin

      That explains the large number of online poker players registered in the Ukraine! Their english being a lot better than the Ukrainians I have met.

  • Jo

    KIEV, December 3. /TASS/. The Kherson City Court has rejected a claim of the shipowner seeking to lift a ban on the Russian Mekhanik Pogodin oil tanker, Ukrainian President’s so-called permanent representative to Crimea, Boris Babin, said on Monday.

    “Today, the Kherson City Court has dismissed the claim of the owner of the Mekhanik Pogodin tanker to terminate the blocking of this property subject to sanctions ” he wrote on his Facebook page.

    Mekhanik Pogodin tanker
    Russia’s consul general visits detained Mekhanik Pogodin tanker in Ukraine’s port
    The press service of V.F. Tanker previously told TASS that the lawsuit had been lodged because of the refusal to issue a permit for the Mekhanik Pogodin tanker to leave the port. Preliminary estimates suggest that damage, caused by the ban on the vessel to leave the port, exceeds 200,000 euros ($227,000), the press service added.

    On August 10, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) blocked the Russian vessel at the port of Kherson, saying that its owner had been blacklisted by Kiev.

    According to the captain, the tanker was carrying a diesel fuel cargo from Turkmenistan to Ukraine under a freightage contract in the interests of Canada’s Oil Marine Shipping and Chartering.

    The vessel’s operating company, V.F.Tanker, said that the crewmembers had prevented an illicit entry attempt by the Ukrainian authorities.

    The company previously noted that “the port authorities and customs service had been notified that the vessel’s detention was groundless and illegal and could entail liability for damages” because they had violated the International Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to the Arrest of Sea-going Ships.


  • Tatyana

    Now, when my emotions settled down…

    Mr. Murray states in the article: “you can’t treat military personnel from military vessels as terrorists”.

    Military personnel are not civil tourists. Their routine procedures are fulfilled due to instructions and regulations. Special missions are carried out under orders. Simply, military personnel cannot do whatever they want.

    If ukrainian president confirms that, the crew had order / instruction to disobey russian coastal guards, to neglect safety protocol, to aim their weapons to russian vessels – in this case they may be treated as military servicemen.

    If ukrainian president doesn’t confirm the order was given, so the men are terrorists, who used state property, such as military vessels and weapons. On their own decision, without instruction from seniors in rank, with unknown intentions, undeclared mission – they threatened safety of all people in the area of Kerch Strait.

    Since we have no confirmation from Poroshenko, that these men were acting under order, so we must treat them as terrorists. It is duty to detain them until their status clears.

    Again I say, I’m not an expert in law. Where is my mistake? Why detention is illegal?

    Poroshenko demands from Russia to treat these men as prisoners of war. Thus, he must confirm they acted due to instructions.

    Russia doesn’t confirm the state of war.
    *** to be honest, we call Ukrainian behavior “war masturbation” *** I’m sorry for this word, but we call it exacly this.

  • michael norton

    The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament plans to give state awards to the border guards who fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and 24 sailors a week ago, Russian media say.

    Vyacheslav Volodin said they acted “faultlessly, courageously” to thwart what Russia describes as a violation of its maritime border in the Black Sea.

    Why don’t they step back and calm down, war will not benefit ordinary people.

    • Tatyana

      So very true, michael. War never benefits ordinary people. Neither does weaponized provocation. Nor breaking the borders does.
      Why can’t they just stop doing it and negotiate instead?
      I see, US could probably serve as mediator, if it only had will for peace in my region.

  • Yevgeny Goncharov

    To Craig Murray:
    you definitely miss an important point here. If, as Russia claims, ships were detained in Russian territorial waters,
    they have all legal rights to detain ships and crew.
    Quote: “FSB noted that the territorial waters entered by Ukrainian vessels belonged to Russia even before 2014, when Crimean citizens voted to reunify with the country. It also said two officers from the Ukrainian Security Service, or SBU, were embedded with the intruder ships to coordinate the incursion.”
    Is this claim true or false? I don’t know, but given reporting style (if…. assuming….), this fact could not be ignored.
    Please, add this to your blog for a complete analysis.
    Thank you.

    • Tatyana

      I’ve found a chronology of evens in the Kerch Strait, which seems to be more or less impartial for those who think Ukrainians are all white hats 🙂

      So we see:
      – two small-sized armored artillery boats ‘Berdiansk’ and ‘Nikopol’
      – to say nothing of the ‘Yany Kapu’ tug (I feel like I’m J. Klapka J :-))
      – two more “fast attack craft”, which departed from the Azov side and later returned to their home seaport
      – coastguard vessel Don
      – coasguard vessel Izumrud
      – with the support of Russian airforce

      Brave military men were measuring the length of their artillery…. whilst one nice russian lady ( didn’t I mention I’m a humble person?) was trembling of fear.

      P.s. Still you talk about Azov, when none party of the conflict denies it was the Black Sea
      P.p.s We like to bring our children to Anapa city even in the autumn. It was safe and nice seashore health resort.

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