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Lawson: Russia’s Attacks on Ukrainian Ships

Hopefully%2C+martial+law+will+not+allow+Russia+to+claim+political+turmoil+as+a+victory.
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Lawson: Russia’s Attacks on Ukrainian Ships

Hopefully, martial law will not allow Russia to claim political turmoil as a victory.

Hopefully, martial law will not allow Russia to claim political turmoil as a victory.

Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0]

Hopefully, martial law will not allow Russia to claim political turmoil as a victory.

Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0]

Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0]

Hopefully, martial law will not allow Russia to claim political turmoil as a victory.

Hunter Lawson, Staff Writer

On November 25, 2018, Russia attacked three Ukrainian naval vessels, two small armored boats and a tugboat, in the Black Sea. Russia also seized 23 sailors, including three that were wounded in a shooting  the Russian side. This was the first overt armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, when Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula.

This attack was a clear violation of international law and a dangerous escalation of the shadow war Russia has waged for more than four years. Russia has claimed that there was provocation from the Ukrainian boats; however, this does not change the fact that Russia had no legal justification for firing on the ships and seizing them.

Ever since Russia opened a new bridge over the Kerch Strait in May, Russia has moved steadily to control the strait and the Azov Sea. Russia has moved gunboats into the area and has begun stopping and inspecting cargo vessels headed for Ukraine, hurting the Ukrainian economy.

No matter the reason that Ukraine had for sending three boats towards the Kerch Strait, they were within their rights to do so. Russia’s reaction to ram the tugboat, open fire on the boats, wound several sailors, seize the boats and 23 captives, scramble fighter jets, and block passage under the Crimea Bridge with a freighter was a dangerous, arrogant, illegal aggression. On November 26, 2018, NATO held an emergency meeting where they said “The Secretary General expressed NATO’s full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its full navigational rights in its territorial waters under international law.”

The incident had the consequence of destabilizing Ukraine’s politics. Soon after the ships were seized, President Poroshenko called a meeting and declared martial law in southern and eastern provinces. The Ukrainian Parliament approved the martial law, limiting it to one month.

By limiting it to one month, they lifted the worry that President Poroshenko would postpone national elections in March, which he is almost certain to lose. Martial law is more likely to increases friction in the eastern and southern provinces than to increase Ukraine’s defenses. Hopefully, martial law will not allow Russia to claim political turmoil as a victory.

Russia’s bullying of Ukraine cannot be allowed to continue. By tightening its hold on Crimea, Russia is hoping that the West does not provide support for Ukraine. So far, the only thing the West has done is condemn Russia’s actions. Real action must be taken against Russia to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

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