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Russia ready to let Germany, France study shipping rules in Kerch Strait on site

Lavrov added that the idea of deploying Western countries’ ships in the Kerch Strait area was an "absolutely hopeless idea"

VLADIVOSTOK, April 21. /TASS/. Russia is prepared to let German and French officials study the rules of shipping in the Kerch Strait on site, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Zvezda TV channel’s host Olga Belova in an interview.

"If the Germans and the French are still interested to see how it all happens, and not rely on gossip being spread by the Ukrainian side, they are highly welcome," he said.

"To better understand the core of the dispute and examine the shipping procedures in the Kerch Strait German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the middle of last December asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to let German specialists see how it all happens in real life. Putin agreed at once. Then we reaffirmed our consent that and asked to name the specialists and the suitable dates," Lavrov said. "They took a pause and then all of a sudden my German counterpart Heiko Maas, when I mentioned the request to him at our meeting in January told me they would like to do that together with France. I replied that the idea looked like something very new, but still expressed the certainty that our president would agree to the participation of French specialists in such a trip."

After that Germany shared with Russia a concept of such a visit, which implied not a one-time visit, but the deployment of a permanent monitoring mission in the Kerch Strait, linked with the OSCE mission in Donbass and incorporating Ukrainian representatives," Lavrov said. "All of them would be stationed in our territory doing nobody knows what," Lavrov said. "Naturally, they would like to get entrenched there. The Germans are usually very punctual people. When Merkel asked Putin if it was be possible for their experts to come and see everything for themselves, he replied it was… Possibly after that German representatives held consultations with their superiors."

Lavrov added that the idea of deploying Western countries’ ships in the Kerch Strait area was an "absolutely hopeless idea."

Kerch Strait provocation

On November 25, 2018 three Ukrainian naval ships left the port of Odessa and headed for the Azov Sea. While trying to pass the Kerch Strait they violated the established rules of navigation through Russian territorial waters. All of the Russian border guards’ demands for shutting the engines were ignored. Weapons had to be used to make the intruders stop. Three Ukrainian military servicemen were slightly injured. The ships were detained and their crews arrested. Russia opened a criminal case over the violation of the state border.

Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko used the incident to declare martial law in the whole territory of Ukraine for a period of 60 days, which meant at least the cancellation of the presidential election scheduled for March 31, 2019. His decision sparked angry protests from all political forces. Poroshenko had to backtrack to reduce martial law to 30 and apply it only to Ukraine’s border areas.

Moscow interpreted the Kerch Strait incident as a provocation the authorities in Kiev staged with the aim of inflating the incumbent president’s low ratings ahead of the presidential election.