The escalation of tensions around the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and threats to European security
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 24 January 2019 (7th Sitting) (see Doc. 14811, report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy,
rapporteur: Mr Andreas Nick). Text adopted
by the Assembly on 24 January 2019 (7th Sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly is deeply
concerned about the escalation of tensions between the Russian Federation
and Ukraine in the region of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait,
which culminated on 25 November 2018 when three Ukrainian warships
were manoeuvring from Odessa, on the Ukrainian Black Sea coast,
to the city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
2. The border service of the Russian Federal Security Service
opened fire on the above-mentioned vessels, seized them and captured
24 Ukrainian servicemen, three of whom were wounded. The incident
took place in the Black Sea, near the entrance to the Kerch Strait.
There is, however, disagreement between Ukraine and Russia about
the exact location of the incident and its specific legal status.
The Ukrainian servicemen are currently being detained in Russia.
The Assembly condemns the use of military force by the Russian Federation
against Ukrainian warships and their crews.
3. On 26 November 2018, martial law was introduced in several
regions of Ukraine, for thirty days, by a directive “on extreme
measures to ensure the national sovereignty and independence of
Ukraine”. The Assembly welcomes the lifting of martial law in Ukraine
on 26 December 2018.
4. The Assembly underlines that the Russian Federation and Ukraine
are members of the Council of Europe and have committed themselves
to its Statute (ETS No. 1), according to which the pursuit of peace based
on justice and international co-operation is vital for the preservation
of human society and civilisation. They have both committed themselves
to solving their conflicts peacefully.
5. Referring to the Treaty between the Russian Federation and
Ukraine on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch
Strait, signed in December 2003 and ratified by both countries in
April 2004, the Assembly notes that, according to Article 2.1 of
the treaty, the free passage of merchant vessels and warships of
both the Russian Federation and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the
Kerch Strait, which are shared territorial waters, must be respected
and freedom of passage ensured.
The Assembly therefore urges the Russian Federation to:
6.1 immediately release the Ukrainian
servicemen and ensure they are granted the necessary medical, legal
and/or consular assistance in accordance with relevant provisions
of international humanitarian law such as the Geneva Conventions;
6.2 ensure freedom of passage in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch
Strait in accordance with the above-mentioned treaty and any other
mutually agreed procedures, and to respect the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea;
6.3 refrain from violence in the case of differing opinions
about alleged border violations and rather follow the above-mentioned
and other international procedures for dispute solutions.
The Assembly calls on the authorities of the Russian Federation
and of Ukraine to:
both the Treaty on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and
the Kerch Strait and the agreed regulations for navigation through
7.2 refrain from any further steps which might aggravate the
legal disputes between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, escalate
the conflict and threaten security in the wider region. It fully
supports the efforts made through diplomatic channels and legal
procedures of both sides concerned.
For its part, the Assembly:
its commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine
within its internationally recognised borders and recalls in this
respect Resolution 1990
on the reconsideration on substantive grounds
of the previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation, Resolution 2034 (2015)
the challenge, on substantive grounds, of the still unratified credentials
of the delegation of the Russian Federation, Resolution 2063 (2015)
on the consideration
of the annulment of the previously ratified credentials of the delegation
of the Russian Federation (follow-up to paragraph 16 of Resolution 2034 (2015)
and Resolution 2132 (2016)
the political consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine;
8.2 expresses great concern about the construction by Russia
of the bridge over the Kerch Strait, which it considers illegal
and another breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty, as well as about Russia’s
policy regarding the selective search of Ukrainian and international
ships, which hinders navigation to and from the Sea of Azov;
8.3 supports the proposal by the European Parliament that
the mandate of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine of the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – which
covers the entire territory of Ukraine, including maritime areas
– should also cover the new area of tensions in and around the Sea
8.4 supports the proposal, made by Germany and France, that
third-country observers monitor shipping traffic and guarantee freedom
of navigation in the Kerch Strait;
8.5 urges Council of Europe member States to do everything
in their power to avoid a further escalation of violence with potentially
dangerous consequences for security in the wider region;
8.6 calls on the international bodies which have competence
in the field, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross
and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), to visit
the Ukrainian servicemen in prison, pending their release, and supports
any diplomatic action taken by member States aimed at their release.