The Russian authorities announced the closure of three regions of the Black Sea to foreign warships and state vessels, RBC reports with reference to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The restrictions affect the western tip of Crimea, the peninsula’s southern coastline from Sevastopol to Hurzuf, and a “rectangle” off the Kerch peninsula near the Opuksky Nature Reserve. The Kerch Strait and approaches to it did not come under closure.
The Defense Ministry did not name the reason for this step. As noted, the restrictions will be in effect for six months: from 21:00 on April 24 to 21:00 on October 31.
The restrictions do not affect navigation in the Kerch Strait or its entry points, the ministry added.
In mid-April, Russia announced the closure of part of the Black Sea to foreign warships and state vessels under the pretext of military exercises. On April 22, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the General Staff of the Russian Federation and commanders to withdraw troops, which have recently been moved to Ukraine's borders, to their permanent bases by May 1.
The U.S. Department of State expressed deep concern over Russia's plans to block foreign naval ships and state vessels in parts of the Black Sea. State Department spokesman Ned Price called Russia's actions "yet another unprovoked escalation in Moscow's ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine."
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry expressed its resolute protest against Russia's restrictions on freedom of navigation in the Black Sea.
The European Union and NATO urged to reverse this decision and ensure freedom of navigation and free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.