NATO calls on Russia to allow freedom of navigation in Sea of Azov.

NATO considers Russia's actions to restrict access through the Kerch Strait and ban on navigation in the Sea of Azov a part of the country's broader pattern of destabilising behaviour in the region and calls on Russia to stop provocations immediately.

“Russia’s plans to restrict access to parts of Black Sea and Kerch Strait would be unjustified move, part of a broader pattern of destabilising behaviour. We call on Russia to allow freedom of navigation. NATO Allies do not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea,” NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu posted on Twitter.

Lungescu also cited the Alliance’s statement on Russia’s actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

"We are concerned by reports that Russia plans to restrict access to parts of the Black Sea and the Kerch Strait. This would be an unjustified move, and part of a broader pattern of destabilising behaviour by Russia. We call on Russia to ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of ​​Azov, and allow freedom of navigation," the statement reads.

As noted, Russia has substantially increased its military presence on and around the peninsula since its illegal annexation of Crimea. Russia's ongoing militarisation of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov are further threats to Ukraine's independence and undermine the stability of the broader region.

"We call on Russia to de-escalate immediately, stop its pattern of provocations, and respect its international commitments. NATO Allies do not and will not recognise Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. We fully support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders," the statement underscores.

As reported, on April 15, the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine expressed its resolute protest against Russia's restrictions on freedom of navigation in the Black Sea. Russia announced the closure from next week to October 2021 of part of the Black Sea in the direction of the Kerch Strait for warships and state vessels of other countries under the pretext of military exercises. This step is a gross violation of the right to freedom of navigation guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to the Convention, Russia must not obstruct or impede transit through an international strait to ports in the Sea of Azov.

As the Ministry stated, such actions by the Russian Federation are another attempt to violate the norms and principles of international law to usurp the sovereign rights of Ukraine as a coastal state, as Ukraine has the right to regulate navigation in these areas of the Black Sea.

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