Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 17.12.2018
“Ukraine is actively working on a package of sanctions related to Russia’s act of aggression in the basin of the Black and Azov Seas.” So said the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, at a press conference in Kyiv on December 16. The rest of the democratic West should follow Ukraine’s lead if there is to be any chance of stopping the expansion of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine.
On November 25, in a purposeful and unprovoked attack, Russian maritime forces rammed Ukrainian Navy vessels in the Kerch Strait. They shot at them from sea and air, and then boarded and captured them in international waters of the Black Sea. 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors were captured. They are prisoners of war, but the Russian Federation is violating the Geneva Convention by subjecting them to coercive interrogation and so-called criminal proceedings. Three Ukrainian naval vessels – the Berdyansk, the Nikopol, and the Yanu Kapu – have been seized by the Russians and not returned. The Russian Federation has imposed an effective blockade on the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov by blocking Ukrainian merchant shipping at the Kerch Strait.
The Russian Federation committed an open act of war by attacking the Ukrainian Navy on November 25. It is breaking international law, specifically the Law of the Sea, by blockading Ukrainian ports. The Putin regime is committing war crimes by violating the Geneva Convention: failing to treat the 24 captive Ukrainian sailors as prisoners of war and blocking the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Muscovy’s acts of war against Ukraine began when the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in Crimea on 20 February 2014. Russian acts of war against Ukraine have never stopped. A functioning, rules-based international order would declare that a state of war exists where it clearly does. Without this, the least that can be done is that the timid sanctions of 2014 be expanded in light of the fact that Russian aggression has expanded. Ukraine is calling for strong, new ‘Azov Sanctions’ for what the Russians did on November 25 and are doing since.
The package of sanctions that Ukraine is developing will include a list of individuals, including those who gave the order to open fire on the Ukrainian Navy vessels. Radio intercepts from November 25 indicate that Putin himself may have been personally directing the Russian attack.
Lithuania has already introduced ‘Azov sanctions’ at the national level. Lithuania is a front-line state to aggressor Russia too, just like Ukraine, and isn’t waiting on its European Union partners.
After meeting with EU ministers and officials in Brussels, President Poroshenko said that a majority of EU member states confirmed their readiness to introduce ‘Azov sanctions’ and not just roll over existing sanctions dating from the Russian Federation’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
While not committing to new sanctions, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement released on December 15 that the United States would continue to “present a unified front” with the EU against the Kremlin’s aggression. He said the US welcomes signs that EU member states will hold the Russian Federation accountable for its aggression against Ukraine.
Canada’s Standing Committee on National Defence has recommended that ‘Azov sanctions’ be applied by the Government of Canada. Members of Parliament on the committee also recommended Magnitsky law sanctions be applied against the Russian officials responsible for abusing the human rights of the 24 Ukrainian sailors and the more than 70 Ukrainian political prisoners held illegally by the Russian Federation. They also recommended that Canada renew and expand Operation UNIFIER, Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, at the earliest opportunity.
The Russian Federation is at war with Ukraine. It is undeniable. Deep concern about it isn’t enough. The least that should be done is the imposition of new ‘Azov sanctions,’ new Magnitsky law sanctions, broad and punitive economic sanctions, plus a ban on the entry of all Russian naval and merchant ships to the world’s ports. Putin will never stop until he is stopped. Following the leadership of front line defender-of-Europe Ukraine is how that can be done.