European Parliament

10/23/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/23/2018 08:01

Motion for a resolution on the situation in the Sea of Azov - B8-2018-0496

The European Parliament,

- having regard to its previous resolutions on Russia and Ukraine, in particular those of 13 March 2014 on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia(1), of 17 July 2014 on Ukraine(2), of 11 June 2015 on the strategic military situation in the Black Sea Basin following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia(3), of 5 October 2017 on the cases of Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz, Ilmi Umerov and the journalist Mykola Semena(4), and of 14 June 2018 on Russia, notably the case of Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov(5),

- having regard to the statement of 15 May 2018 by the Spokesperson of the European External Action Service on the partial opening of the Kerch Bridge,

- having regard to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the UN Charter,

- having regard to the Agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on cooperation in the use of the Sea of Azov and the strait of Kerch of 2003, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 5 December 1994 and the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements of 12 February 2015,

- having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas prior to Russia's deployment of military and coast guard vessels, the Sea of Azov was almost demilitarised; whereas Russia's actions have led to further deterioration of the security situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and have significant implications for the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine;

B. whereas both the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Agreement on the Sea of Azov of 2003 provide for the freedom of navigation; whereas the latter defines the sea as part of the internal waters of the two states and gives both parties the power to inspect vessels crossing to and from the Sea of Azov;

C. whereas the construction of the Kerch Bridge to the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula without Ukraine's consent constitutes another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity by the Russian Federation;

D. whereas the Kerch Bridge limits the size of ships that can reach the Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov to an air draft of less than 33 metres and a length of less than 160 metres, which has made it impossible for Panamax class vessels, constituting over 20 % of all ship traffic before the construction, to enter the Sea of Azov;

E. whereas Russia frequently stops ships going to and from the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk and conducts lengthy inspections which can take up to several days; whereas ships under the Russian flag are not obliged to undergo such controls;

F. whereas since April 2018, no fewer than 120 EU Member State vessels have been subjected to Russia's abusive inspection procedures in the Sea of Azov region;

G. whereas this new practice by Russia has already had a significant negative impact on the local economy and on the workload of the Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, which, after the illegal annexation of Crimea, were responsible for handling 80 % of the volume of Ukraine's maritime exports;

H. whereas this pattern of violating the territorial waters of third countries or blocking maritime transport has already been exercised by Russia in the Baltic Sea, in particular against Estonia, Latvia and Poland (Vistula Lagoon);

I. whereas in September 2018 Ukraine decided to repeal the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership signed in 1997 between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and to create a naval base in the Sea of Azov, thus increasing its military presence there;

1. Strongly condemns Russia's actions in the Sea of Azov, which hinder navigation, cause delays, dramatically increase transport costs and constitute another dimension of Russia's hybrid warfare and a breach of international law and Russia's own commitments; is particularly concerned about the practice of stopping ships for inspection by the Russian coast guard within 12 miles of the Ukrainian coast;

2. Is gravely concerned about the continued militarisation of the Sea of Azov and Black Sea region, particularly of the illegally occupied Crimea, including the development of A2/AD capabilities by the Russian Federation, which involve new S-400 anti-aircraft systems;

3. Expresses its very serious concern about the very volatile security situation in the Sea of Azov, which could easily escalate to an open conflict;

4. Condemns the Russian practice of excessively long controls of vessels entering and leaving the Sea of Azov that are bound for or leaving the Ukrainian ports; underlines that Russian ships or ships bound for or leaving the Russian ports are not subjected to such treatment; underlines the catastrophic impact these inspections are having on the Ukrainian fishing sector;

5. Considers such practices as conscious and deliberate discrimination against Ukrainian ports and abuse of inspection rights; is concerned that, if not countered, the practice of inspections and blockades developed in the Sea of Azov could be used in other places, including the Black Sea;

6. Deplores Russia's attempt to forcefully integrate the illegally annexed Crimea via construction of the Kerch Bridge; welcomes the Council's decision to extend restrictive measures to entities involved in the construction of the Kerch Bridge, and calls on the Council to broaden the scope of actions for which the sanctions are imposed, to include those responsible for planning and implementing Russia's abusive and discriminatory policy of inspections in the Sea of Azov and those overseeing the Kerch Bridge construction and operation;

7. Calls on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to extend its monitoring mission mandate to the Sea of Azov or to establish a separate international monitoring mission for this body of water;

8. Calls on the VP/HR to follow more closely the evolving security situation in the Sea of Azov, given its growing potential for conflict on Europe's doorstep, which may have wider security implications affecting the EU and its Member States directly; in this regard, considers that it would be very useful to appoint an EU Special Envoy for Crimea and the Donbass region, whose responsibilities would also cover the Sea of Azov;

9. Calls on the Commission to send a special expert mission to the region to assess the economic damage caused by the de facto blockade, and to consider setting up a special economic development programme that could be implemented in the affected areas, including assistance for the reopening of the Mariupol civilian airport and for developing alternative transport route plans for Ukrainian goods;

10. Deplores the illegal extraction of oil and gas resources by the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory; highlights the possible danger of Russia seizing existing Ukrainian oil and gas fields in the Sea of Azov once it achieves its aim of transforming it into an internal sea within the Russian Federation;

11. Warmly welcomes NATO's firm support for Ukraine; calls for further assistance and involvement, including an increased presence in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, joint military exercises and operations, and assistance in strengthening Ukrainian military and naval capabilities;

12. Calls on the VP/HR to assist the Ukrainian side in taking advantage of all diplomatic actions and legal procedures provided for by international law and relevant conventions, including the ongoing arbitration process under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, with a view to countering Russian hostile practices in the Sea of Azov;

13. Reiterates its support for the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine; reconfirms Ukraine's sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula;

14. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Secretary-General of NATO, the President, Government and Parliament of Ukraine, the President, Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation and the EU Member States.

(1)

OJ C 378, 9.11.2017, p. 213.

(2)

OJ C 224, 21.6.2016, p. 14.

(3)

OJ C 407, 4.11.2016, p. 74.

(4)

OJ C 346, 27.9.2018, p. 86.

(5)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0259.