Between 24 July and 19 August, purportedly for training purposes, Russia has closed off five regions of the Black Sea with a total area of 118,570 square kilometers, more than a quarter of the sea’s total area, the Ukrainian Military Portal reports.
“The mentioned regions effectively close off the customary and advisable international shipping routes to Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Ukraine, virtually blocking maritime traffic with these countries,” the news outlet writes.
Russia’s international navigation directives concerning the Black Sea regions will be in force until 19 August.
No clear reason for the directives has been specified. Some of the sections are designated as territories that are “dangerous” to navigate, others are closed off for military training purposes.
“It should be noted that the Russian Federation does not have as many ground or seaborne forces as would be needed to close off such an area in the relevant regions for carrying out military training exercises. It also lacks the necessary number of vessels to control and close off the relevant regions to ensure the safety of maritime traffic, and especially fishing and individual fishing sector companies, which may not always receive the relevant directives in time,” the article notes.
The Ukrainian Military Portal says that these actions by Russia should be considered “yet another act of hybrid aggression at sea, now not only against Ukraine, but also against other countries in the Black Sea Region”.
Previously, before the start of the Sea Breeze 2019 exercise between 1 and 12 July, Russia closed off an 8,000 km region in the Black Sea that included the proposed location of one of the international drills involving vessels from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, the UK and the US.
A UN General Assembly resolution passed on 17 December 2018 in connection with Russia’s militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, calls on Russia to withdraw its troops from Crimea and condemns the growing Russian military presence in the mentioned seas.