All news

Russia is free to determine legal status of Sea of Azov — expert

Maria Zakharova recalled that the Sea of Azov had been Russia’s inland body of water for two centuries

SEVASTOPOL, October 6. /TASS/. The status of Russia’s inland sea, which the Sea of Azov acquired after the official accession of the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics and the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions to the Russian Federation, allows Moscow to fully control shipping, as well as fishing rules and environmental safety in this area, the Sevastopol State University’s Associate Professor, Candidate of Sciences (Law) Anna Poshivailova, told TASS on Thursday.

"An internal sea is a sea that is surrounded by the shores of one state. In relation to the Sea of Azov such a state is Russia [after the entry of new regions]. Accordingly, Russia fully determines the legal status of this sea, the presence of foreign watercraft there, the legal status of seaports, and also the rules of fishing, economic activities [for example, the laying of pipelines], and environmental requirements," the lawyer said.

She recalled that the Sea of Azov had been Russia’s inland body of water for two centuries. Only 30 years ago - after the collapse of the USSR - two host states appeared: Russia and Ukraine. The requirements in each territory were somewhat different, but a clear maritime border was never drawn. As a result, part of the water area fell under the influence of both parties, which led to legal conflicts. Now the situation in the Sea of Azov will again become controlled and clear uniform rules will apply.

"Other states do not have the right to interfere in any way in any work in the Sea of Azov from the legal viewpoint. But there is another aspect that concerns international relations and politics," Poshivailova said.

She stressed the situation involving the Sea of Azov could not affect, for example, the Black Sea straits, because the rules of passage through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles are regulated by special international treaties, and they do not imply such interconnection.

Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait status

The total area of the Sea of Azov is 39 thousand square kilometers. Russia’s two large navigable rivers - the Don and the Kuban - flow into it. The Kerch Strait connects it to the Black Sea.

In 1954, a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR "On the Transfer of the Crimean Region from the Russian Soviet Socialist Federative Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic" was signed. The coastal seas belonged to the Soviet Union, and not to its constituent entities, for which reason no maritime border in the Sea of Azov after 1954 was established. The administrative border between Crimea and the Krasnodar Region was drawn only in the Kerch Strait and along the coastline of the Krasnodar Region and Crimea in the Sea of Azov.

In post-Soviet years, the issue of the status of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, which is the sole natural exit from the Sea of Azov, became a controversy in Russian-Ukrainian relations, especially after 2014, when Crimea and Sevastopol reunited with Russia.