Russia has partially unblocked the Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, the Ukrainian authorities announced on Tuesday, suggesting the easing of tensions in this sensitive area at the heart of a standoff between Kiev and Moscow.
Ukraine and Russia have been engaged in their worst clash for several years after Russia’s military arrested three Ukrainian ships trying to enter the Azov Sea on November 25.
This is the first open military confrontation between Moscow and Kiev since Russia’s annexation in 2014 of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula and the beginning of an armed conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian government and separatists, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Prior to the naval incident, Kiev and the West had for months been accusing Russia of deliberately obstructing the navigation of commercial ships through the Kerch Straits, which Moscow claimed control of following the annexation of Crimea.
In response to this latest rise in tension, Kiev has introduced martial law for one month in its border and coastal regions, saying it feared a “total war” by Moscow who it accuses of having drastically reinforced its military presence in the Ukrainian border.
This confrontation has revived fears of a wider escalation between these two former Soviet republics. While Western countries have supported Ukraine in the conflict, they have called on both sides to show restraint.