Two Ukrainian military ships, the A500 Donbas search-and-rescue vessel and the A830 Korets tugboat passed under the Crimean Bridge, which connects the Taman Peninsula to Crimea, the Ukrainian Military Portal reported on Sunday.
“Earlier, the small armored artillery boats R177 Kremenchuh and R178 Lubny left from the Berdyansk port to meet the search-and-rescue vessel A500 Donbas and sea tugboat A830 Korets in the direction of the Kerch crossing. They were delivered to Berdyansk at the start of September, and have already been launched into the water,” the report states.
The Donbas and the Korets were moving from Odessa to Berdyansk, to become the core of the new Ukrainian naval base in the Sea of Azov.
The military portal reported with reference to its own sources that the ships left Ukraine’s Western naval base in Odessa on Thursday, September 20.
On the morning of Sunday, September 23, they were directly in front of the Crimean Bridge.
“It is expected that the transition from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea will take place through the Russian-controlled Kerch Strait,” the news outlet stated.
“Our [ships] are at the crossing… At 10:25 they came right up to the strait and the bridge. We are waiting for what happens next,” wrote Ukrainian Military Portal editor Taras Chmut, publishing a corresponding photo.
The website notes that, once they approached annexed Sevastopol, the Ukrainian ships were escorted by Ametist, a Russian Coast Guard project 22460 patrol boat. Another unidentified Russian ship later joined the first.
According to an agreement signed in 2003, the Sea of Azov is the internal see of two countries, and accordingly vessels under the Ukrainian and Russian flags may pass through the strait freely and travel to their own ports.
“This has been used repeatedly by Russia, and now with the aggravation of the situation in the Sea of Azov, the command of the Ukrainian Navy has also decided to use it, in accordance with the demands that have arisen,” the report states.
The Donbas ship is intended to reinforce the Ukrainian Navy’s infrastructure in the Sea of Azov. There are plans to establish base headquarters, residences for soldiers, warehouses, and other needed facilities which the region currently lacks. The Korets will be used for towing and turning other ships and floating structures.
The Ukrainian Navy announced earlier that it plans to create a naval base in the Sea of Azov by the end of this year.