Kerch Strait Bridge has become serious security threat for Ukraine – Turchynov
The erection of a bridge across the Kerch Strait into occupied Crimea has created a number of serious security threats to Ukraine, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov has said.
"Thanks to the bridge, it is now possible to quickly deploy significant Russian ground forces to Crimea, which can launch offensive operations in the south of Ukraine," Turchynov said in an exclusive interview with Kyiv's Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
Turchynov said Russia has militarized Crimea since annexing the peninsula in 2014.
"It created the powerful 22nd Army Corps, built up forces of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and deployed missile systems, which can strike at our rear position. Anti-aircraft S-400 can strike any aerial target in the central part of Ukraine. All this is a serious threat for us," Turchynov said.
Recent mounting Russian security threats include the Azov Sea flotilla, which has been reinforced with additional ships, Russian border troops, as well as Russian Navy ships deployed to the Caspian Sea.
"Now, to conduct military operations in the Sea of Azov, they can use a significant number of landing ships, as well as ships of the Buyan-M class, which have cruise missiles in service," he said.
Turchynov said increasing the airborne capabilities of the Russian Armed Forces in the Sea of Azov will allow the transfer of forces and assets of the armies of the Southern Military District to the Ukrainian coast, which are now threatening Ukraine from the east.
"As a result, we have the most powerful military infrastructure along the Ukrainian-Russian border and in addition to the threat from the east, we have a significant threat from the south, while Russia's Western Military District hovers over Ukraine from the North," Turchynov said.
Turchynov said the Kerch Strait Bridge allows Russia to exercise illegal control over the vessels that cross the Kerch Strait and block Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea at any time.
"Ukraine has the opportunity to delay the Russian ships whose actions violate our laws ... But if we act appropriately under international law, Russia, as always, is grossly violating the norms of international law, conducting illegal searches of ships going to the Ukrainian ports. It is actually a continuation of a hybrid war in the economic sense, a demonstration of readiness to carry out the blockade of our ports on the Azov Sea," Turchynov said.
According to Turchynov, Ukrainian authorities can redirect traffic flows from ports on the coast of the Azov Sea, but that would complicate logistics and make exports from Mariupol metallurgical plants more expensive, thus reducing their competitiveness.
"The difficulty is that right after the conflict over the island of Tuzla in late 2003, Ukraine, under the pressure from Russia, signed an agreement according to which the Sea of Azov is defined as the internal sea of two states, and this status does not allow clearly fixing the maritime boundary line and provides an opportunity for intensification of Russian provocations," he said.