This week tensions between the Ukraine and Russia took an explosive turn (literally) when ships from each country’s navy clashed off the coast of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014 amidst a chorus of international grumbling. Despite the flagrant disregard for international law, this Russian invasion of another country’s sovereign territory was challenged only by a series of economic sanctions. Since then relations between Ukraine and Russia have been frosty at best, with near continuous fighting between the government and semi-covertly Russian-backed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine. Last Sunday, whilst transferring between ports, a group of Ukrainian naval vessels were intercepted by Russian ships in a channel known as the Kerch Strait, a vital link from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov.
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
Precise details of the encounter are limited, but there is footage of the larger Russian ships ramming the small Ukrainian gunboats and there were reports of shots being fired – at least three Ukrainian sailors were injured. The Russians proceeded to capture the vessels and their crews, who are now being detained in Russia. Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko has called this an unprovoked attack and says that they had given the Russians plenty of warning that their ships would be passing through the strait. Following an all-night meeting of his war council, his response was to implement marshal law along the border for 30 days – something that wasn’t even done at the height of the Crimea incident four years ago.
President and former KGB agent Putin has told media that he has evidence that proves the Ukrainian leader planned this provocation as a stunt to improve his poor position in the polls ahead of next year’s election. It is true that Mr Poroshenko is far from popular with his electorate, but I think bringing your country to the verge of war just to win electoral points sounds more like a strategy from Putin’s little red playbook. This is yet another example of the Russian chauvinism that has led many to claim that we’re well on the way to another Cold War – but this time the Kremlin doesn’t just have a hotline to the Oval Office, but a loyal servant in there too!
Meanwhile back in the Brexit Bonanza that is Britain, Theresa May toured the country to try to convince the people that the deal she has negotiated with the EU is better than a poke in the eye with a sharpened stick. Seemingly forgetting that it will be MPs who vote on the deal and not the electorate – didn’t you say you were only following the “will of the people” in the first place, Theresa? The date set for this vote is the 11th of December, leaving just over a week to turn around a parliament that seems set on rejecting her deal. Many Conservatives don’t think much of her plan while Labour intends to use the vote to force a general election, or maybe even a second referendum – they’re just waiting for their leader to change his mind. If May loses this vote, as predicted, one would think she would have to resign, although this has been said at regular intervals throughout her premiership and she’s somehow still here. When asked about this eventuality she said that “obviously decisions would have to be taken” – thanks for clearing that up, PM!
To continue the thread of bright and uplifting news, Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney suggested this week that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the UK could face a serious economic crash. This caused the Member of Parliament for the Constituency of Jeeves and Wooster, Jacob Reese-Mogg, to unleash a tirade of upper-class savagery labelling Carney as a “a second-tier Canadian politician: having failed in Canadian politics he’s got a job in the UK, which he isn’t doing well”. Something about people in glass houses not throwing stones, eh? The pair has clashed before, with Reese-Mogg frequently accusing Carney of politicising the apolitical institution of the Bank of England. He may have a point: Carney is the most publicly vocal Governor the Bank has had for a long time, but surely if the ship was on course to hit an iceberg (or the Brexit bus about to fall off a cliff), you’d want the captain to warn you, no?
Ah well – I’d better stop now, before I fall back into Brexit/Titanic analogies…
Until next week.