‘THIS COULD MEAN WAR’: Analysts Comment on Situation in Kerch Strait


Yesterday was marked by a dangerous confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait, after the latter provocatively had entered the territorial waters of Russia without warning the Russian side.

What was the purpose of this provocation?

On Sunday evening, the Russian Federal Security Service reported that three Ukrainian ships, Berdyansk, Yanu Kapu and Nikopol, who had entered the area after an incident with a tugboat earlier, were arrested for ignoring Russian warnings. During detention, weapons were used, resulting in serious injuries to three Ukrainian military personnel. These, in turn, soon received medical care and are not at risk of death.

Russia has initiated criminal proceedings for breaching its maritime border, while the Kerch Strait has been temporarily closed off for civilian vessels as a security measure. Already the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine voted for the introduction of martial law for a term of 60 days in the country, an initiative supported by the Ukrainian president, Pyotr Poroshenko. Now, the final decision is up to the Supreme Rada, who will vote at 16:00 local time today.

According to Andrei Koshkin, a senior military analyst and professor at the Plekhanov University of Economics, the decision to cross the Russian border was probably made by the Ukrainian president himself.

“Most likely, the breach of the [Russian] border was a decision of the Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko and this is related to the domestic political agenda, particularly with the election campaign. He wants to solve the problem of his lack of popularity and, to win the elections, the provocative decision was made, which resulted in the intention to introduce martial law for 60 days,” he argued.

In this way, the expert points out, Poroshenko intends to gain another mandate “by force”.

“However, there is an external factor – the G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires, where there will be a meeting between the Russian and US presidents. Poroshenko probably wants to draw attention to Ukraine,” Koshkin said.

Political scientist Vladimir Kireev also believes that the provocation was orchestrated precisely by the Ukrainian leader.

“Yes, it was a deliberate provocation aimed at declaring martial law and to further escalate a conflict. I believe that this situation can lead to an unpredictable escalation. Regardless of how they want to manage the situation – to announce martial law, elections to stay in power, fulfill their obligations to their sponsors in Washington or some other capitals, or create problems for Russia – this situation can evolve into a real war,” he said.

In fact, he continued, the number of people involved in the conflict may increase. If Ukrainians take advantage of martial law to recover the Donbass region, this “could provoke the involvement of Russia and a direct confrontation between Kiev and Moscow,” he concluded.

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