KIEV, December 6. /TASS/. Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has passed a bill on the legal status of the country’s 12-nautical-mile contiguous zone. A total of 244 lawmakers supported the bill.
"The law will expand the zone controlled by the country by 12 nautical miles, significantly contribute to reducing smuggling traffic in the Black Sea, help prevent border violations, have a positive effect on regional security and boost efforts to ensure Ukraine’s economic sovereignty," an explanatory note said.
However, "the contiguous zone is neither a zone of sovereignty nor a zone of jurisdiction." "It is a zone where a state can exert limited control for preventing or punishing violations of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and also has rights and obligations to search for sunken archeological and historical objects," the document says.
Rada Security and Defense Committee head Ivan Vinnik said, addressing the parliament, that the document would make it possible to enhance the controlling role of the Ukrainian border service and boost its capability to protect the coastal zone. "While on duty at sea, border guards have limited possibilities to use weapons, but the 31st amendment to the Border Guard Law provides border guards with the right to take actions to deter aggression against them in the littoral zone," Vinnik noted. The law also expands border guards' powers in regard to inspections of fishing vessels in the contiguous zone, as well as the monitoring of the movement of Ukrainian and foreign civilian and navy ships.
The Verkhovna Rada passed the first reading of the bill on November 8. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said then that the law could not be applied to the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.