Ukrainian military ships, which were recently seized by the Russian security service of the FSB, are seen anchored in a port of Kerch, in Crimea, on 28 November 2018. REUTERS / Alla Dmitrieva
KIEV (Reuters) – Two Ukrainian ports of the Sea of Azov, Berdyansk and Mariupol are effectively blocked by Russia, as ships were prevented from leaving and entering, said the Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Volodymyr Omelyan.
Overall, 35 ships were prevented from carrying out normal operations and only ships moving to the Russian ports of the Sea of Azov are admitted to entry, he said on Facebook.
"The goal is simple: by putting a block on the Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, Russia hopes to drive Ukraine out of our territory – the territory that is ours in accordance with all international laws relevant, "he said.
Omelyan said that 18 ships were waiting to enter the Sea of Azov, including four in Berdyansk and 14 in Mariupol. There is also a row of nine ships to leave the Azov Sea and eight other ships are near the moorings of the port.
Wheat and steel dominate shipments of Azov's ports.
Russia has seized three ships of the Ukrainian navy and their crew on Sunday near the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, for what it said was their illegal entry into Russian waters – a charge that Ukraine refutes with force.
The seizure of naval ships has brought the tension to its maximum since 2015, when the rebels supported by Moscow rose against the Kiev government in the eastern Donbass region, triggering a war that killed tens of thousands.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Robert Birsel