Russia Restricted Foreign Warships Navigation Off Crimean Coast For Six Months

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Russia Restricted Foreign Warships Navigation Off Crimean Coast For Six Months

BLACK SEA (June 2, 2015) The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71), left, transits the Black Sea with the Ukranian navy frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy (U 130) during an underway exercise. Ross is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

Russia restricted navigation of foreign warships and state-owned vessels in three areas of the Black Sea for six months, according to the bulletin of the Department of Navigation and Oceanography of the Ministry of Defense. Commercial shipping was not restricted.

The decision was made on April 14, and the restriction takes effect in the evening of April 24.

“From 21:00 on April 24 to 21:00 on October 31, the exercise of the right of peaceful passage through the territorial waters of the Russian Federation for foreign warships and other state vessels is suspended,” the bulletin says.

Exercises of the Russian fleet are planned at this time.

The closed water areas include the coast of Crimea between Sevastopol and Gurzuf, the area off the coast of the Kerch Peninsula near the Cape Opuk and the area off the western edge of the peninsula.

The Kerch Strait and the approach were not included into the restricted zones.

These areas are strategically important for Russia. Radars, coastal anti-ship systems and other equipment are deployed there, as well as numerous military exercises are conducted in these areas.

The restriction is probably aimed at preventing the close reconnaissance activity by foreign forces.

The US and the EU called the restrictions an “unprovoked escalation” of the situation in the region. Ukraine expressed a “strong protest” over the closure of part of the Black Sea and demanded the blockade to be lifted.

On April 20th, Russia partly restricted civil aviation over Crimea and the Black Sea until April 24th amid large-scale military exercises that were carried out on the peninsula and its territorial waters. This decision was also defined as a provocation by Western officials.

On April 23, Russian troops began to return from the southern Russian borders to the places of their permanent deployment.

It seems that Russia is on its way to mark the “red lines” towards the US and it allies that the President Putin was talking about during his address to the Russian Federal Assembly.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov later described the “red lines” as “our external security interests, our internal security interests in preventing any outside interference, whether in our elections or other domestic political processes”.

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