Incidents in the Sea of Azov (25 November 2018)

France expresses its deep concern at the serious maritime incidents that took place yesterday between Russia and Ukraine in the Kerch Strait.

Russian forces stated that they struck and then, with the use of force, boarded and searched three Ukrainian naval vessels which were attempting to cross this maritime route. Several Ukrainian sailors were reportedly injured. In light of our knowledge of the facts at this stage, nothing appears to justify this use of force by Russia.

This situation is a direct consequence of the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 in violation of international law. France reaffirms its commitment in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. We call on Russia and Ukraine to demonstrate the utmost restraint and to avoid any military escalation.

We call on Russia to release the detained Ukrainian sailors as soon as possible and to return the vessels that were seized.

The policy of boarding and searching vessels that has been implemented by Russia since spring 2018 is affecting Ukrainian marine freight and port activity. We call on Russia to respect the freedom of passage in the Kerch Strait as well as the freedom of navigation in the waters of the Sea of Azov.

Q - What is France’s position in the face of the events between Russia and Ukraine in the Kerch Strait?

A - Please refer to the statement I issued today.

Q - Will the meeting of the political directors in the Normandy format take place today in Berlin following the events in the Sea of Azov?

A - We are taking part in this meeting which has been confirmed by our German partners.