Battleship Putinkin: Anarchy in the Ukraine

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.