Odessa, Ukraine (PortSEurope) August 13, 2019 – In an interview with the Russian Interfax News Agency, Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority (USPA) head Raivis Veckagans claimed that Ukrainian sea ports in the Sea of Azov have lost around $232.7 million of income because of the Russian aggression since 2014.
This number does not include losses by businesses associated with the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol in the Azov Sea.
Last November, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Volodymyr Omelyan claimed that the Ukrainian ports Berdyansk and Mariupol in the Azov Sea were under blockade by Russia with ships being prevented from entering and leaving the ports, according to the
“By placing a blockade on Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea, Russia hopes to drive Ukraine out of our own territory that is ours in accordance will all relevant international laws,” Omelyan said, adding that only vessels moving toward the Russian ports on the Azov Sea are permitted entry.
Russia opened fire against and seized three small Ukrainian navy ships and their crews on November 25 near the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, over what Moscow said was their illegal entry into Russian waters – a charge Ukraine denies. A Russia-controlled court in Crimea ordered five of 24 captured Ukrainian sailors to be held in jail for two months for their involvement in the incident.
Moscow said it does not restricting shipping to and from the Azov Sea, and that any possible problems were due to bad weather.
Russia built a new $3 billion bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea to mainland Russia. Ukraine keeps protesting against the bridge which it considers as too low for large and high vessels to pass through.
The Azov Sea is a strategic gate for Ukraine’s industrial and agricultural east, connecting the country’s mines, fields and factories to the world. The Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and nearby Berdyansk on the sea’s western shore export coal, metals, grain, and fertilizer. The Russian port of Taganrog in the Azov Sea is a hub for trade through Russia’s southwest. The Azov Sea is also an important fishing ground for Russia and Ukraine.
Russia forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, claiming its ethnic Russian majority there was under threat from the Ukrainian government. Controlling passage from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov is a key element in asserting Russia’s broader claim to Crimea.
Last July, the EU increased its support to help mitigate the impact of Russia’s destabilising actions in the Sea of Azov region. During the 21st EU-Ukraine Summit, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, signed with Stepan Kubiv, First Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, new additional support measures worth €10 million to support local economic diversification and small businesses, local civil society and citizens’ involvement in decision-making, improvement of community security and public safety.
Whilst such support is welcome, it does not directly help the ports which lose recurring business monthly. USPA has asked the government to reduce the dividends it takes from Ukrainian ports, in order to invest more in its ports.
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