Volodymyr Ohryzko on Radio NV (Image: video capture)
Despite loose talk about convoys and military action, former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko says, Kyiv up to now has lacked the political will to take the one step that it has every right to and that will put it in a much better position to counter Moscow’s actions by appealing to international bodies.
That step, he says, is to denounce the 2004 accord on the Sea of Azov between Ukraine and Russia. That accord, of course, was a compromise and not without problems regardless of Russian actions; but those actions give Ukraine every right under international law to denounce it.
Many in Ukraine either do not know or have forgotten that Russia didn’t want to sign the accord in the first place because under the provisions of the Law of the Sea, Ukraine would have been assigned two-thirds of the aquifer while Russia would get only a third, something Moscow felt was an insult to its vision of “’Great Russia.’”
Ukraine proposed as a way around this defining the Sea of Azov as an internal sea, something that could be divided in other ways. The Russian side then and now was most concerned about the possibility that NATO ships could enter the sea and dock at Ukrainian ports like Mariupol.
Russia wasn’t willing to sign anything, but then a compromise emerged after Ukraine at that time showed that it recognized Russia’s strategy of “going as far as it is allowed” and wasn’t going to collapse in the face of bombast. The compromise required that no outside naval vessels could come in without the joint approval of Moscow and Kyiv.
“It is not excluded,” Ohryzko says, “that in this way they also wanted to achieve a result more suitable to one side, but the agreement was a compromise … However, the Russians by it did not resolve all the issues which they wanted to.”
Moscow “wanted to close the Sea of Azov” and to that end it staged a provocation and began a campaign of blackmail: We have created facts on the ground by our power, and you must accept them, the Russians have said. “Such traditional bazaar diplomacy is what Russia uses left and right: it is that country’s style of behavior.”
“Now, despite what has occurred,” the Ukrainian diplomatic analyst says, “we must analyze all joint agreements with the Russian Federation to determine whether they correspond to our interests.” Kyiv should have done this “long ago” but “better late than never.” Ukraine should not be afraid to denounce them. It has that right under the accords themselves.
Russian actions in the Kerch straits and in the Sea of Azov itself give Kyiv many reasons for taking that step. The only thing lacking in the Ukrainian capital, Ohryzko says, is “political will.” If the government won’t do anything on its own besides making empty statements, the Ukrainian people need to make their voices hear. That has worked on other issues and it can here as well.
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