Russia cancels scheduled Azov Sea blockade, Black Sea still to be blocked

A map of areas of the Black Sea that will be closed for exercises of the Russian Federation with missile and artillery fire as of 15:00 Kyiv time 11.02.2022.  (Coordinates published on the website of the official international coordinator of NAVAREA III - Instituto Hidrográfico de la Marina, Cádiz, Spain, part of the Navy and the Spanish Ministry of Defense). Credit: blackseanews.com 

Russian Aggression

On 10 February at 16:43, the Department of Navigation and Oceanography of Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced it is canceling the blockade of the Azov Sea north of the Kerch Strait. However, the Black Sea will still be essentially blocked for Ukraine till 19 February.

Letter from the Department of Navigation and Oceanography of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on the abolition of the warning about the closure of the Sea of Azov. Photo via blackseanews.net

Earlier, on 9 February, Russia issued warnings about its closure of the Black and Azov Seas “for missile and artillery exercises,” starting from 21:00 UTC 13 February 2022 to 21:00 UTC 19 February 2022. No corridors were provided for the passage of merchant ships. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a statement condemning the Russian plans, as maneuvers make navigation virtually impossible in the area.

How Ukraine can prevent an imminent Russian blockade of the Black & Azov Seas

The Sea of Azov was planned to be blocked from the coast of the occupied Crimea to the coast of Russia’s Krasnodar Krai, which meant a complete blockage of the movement of merchant ships to and from Berdyansk and Mariupol, the Ukrainian ports of Azov.

Russian blockade Black Sea

Russia’s initial plans to block parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov for naval maneuvers on 13-19 February. Map: Black Sea News

In its north-western part, the Black Sea is to be blocked up to the sea border of Ukraine. Depths in the 12-mile zone of Ukraine, which remains free for navigation, are insufficient for the passage of large merchant ships, which effectively means the full blockade of shipping for the time of the announced navy maneuvers.

Despite the current cancelation of the full blockade of the Sea of Azov, Russia continues to effectively control the only passage from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea.

The US Embassy to Ukraine called the Russian upcoming blockade “Russia’s economic warfare against Ukraine”:

The Ukrainian online newspaper Depo.UA commented on the matter, saying

“And here the question arises: can such actions of Russia be regarded as preparation for an attack on Ukraine from the sea? Unfortunately, it is possible. After all, if in the context of a potential Russian invasion on land you can comfort yourselves with thoughts about the insufficiency of troops pulled to the Ukrainian border for a full-scale offensive, then at sea Russia has a full advantage, both in quantity and quality.”

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