And Again COVID-19: A Hidden Epidemic in Crimea Eases the Blockade in the Kerch Strait. The Monitoring Results for June 2020
The Monitoring Group of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies and BSNews
Translated from Ukrainian by HANNA KLYMENKO
* * *
The Monitoring Group of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies and BlackSeaNews is glad to share with you the latest in a series of our monthly studies on Russia's economic war against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov.
1. In June 2020, the average duration of artificial delays of vessels en route from the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov (Mariupol and Berdiansk) by the RF was 11.6 hours (the yearly average for 2019 – 29.9 hours, in April 2020 – 16.6 hours, in May – 10.1 hours) – see Figure 1.
This figure is slightly higher than the one in May, which was the lowest since July 2018 (i.e. since the beginning of the de facto blockade).
It is noteworthy that 5 out of 56 vessels (8.9%) went to the Sea of Azov even without a traditional stop in the Kerch Strait.
Another 26 vessels (46.4%) went to the Sea of Azov with a delay of 1-6 hours, which equals the average wait time before the beginning of the de facto blockade.
Thus, overall, more than half of the vessels (31 out of 56) entered the Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov in a mode that can be considered normal.
Such a situation has been observed for the third month in a row for the first time since June 2018. See the reasons for it below.
2. In June 2020, vessels carrying exports from Mariupol and Berdiansk were delayed at the exit from the Sea of Azov by the Russian Federation for an average of 14.8 hours (the yearly average for 2019 was 37.4 hours, in April 2020 – 19.9, in May – 14.5 hours) – see Figure 2.
This figure is also slightly higher than the one in May, which was the lowest since July 2018 (i.e. since the beginning of the de facto blockade).
Thus, 23 out of 48 “Mariupol” and “Berdiansk” vessels (47.9%) passed from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea in a mode that can be considered normal.
Such a situation has also been observed for the third month in a row for the first time since June 2018.
It’s noteworthy that the decrease in the duration of artificial delay of ships for the third month in a row does not correspond at all to the rest of the related processes:
a) the activity of Russian military formations on the front line in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is increasing;
b) the drinking water crisis on the occupied Crimean peninsula and the rhetoric surrounding it are intensifying;
c) Russian military activity in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov is increasing;
d) the aggressive rhetoric of Kremlin leaders on Ukraine is intensifying.
3. From 22 October 2018 to July 2020, there were no open sea detentions of vessels in the Sea of Azov on the move from/to Berdiansk and Mariupol due to the fact that the Ukrainian Navy’s boats escorted the vessels – see Figure 3.
* * *
Over the past months, the Monitoring Group has become convinced that the main factor that has caused a reduction in the duration of artificial delays of vessels before obtaining the permission to pass through the Kerch Strait is the spread of the coronavirus epidemic not only in the ships’ countries of origin but first and foremost in Krasnodar Krai of the RF and occupied Crimea, where ships and boats of the Coast Guard of the Border Service of the FSB of the RF are based.
This is confirmed by new facts (see the previous arguments at the link: https://www.blackseanews.net/en/read/164815):
"... Sevastopol and Crimea have come out on top in Russia in terms of the reproduction rate of the coronavirus (Rt) ...”
... Sevastopol and Crimea have come out on top in Russia in terms of the reproduction rate of coronavirus (Rt)...
Rt is a coefficient that estimates the mean number of people that one infected person will infect before he/she is isolated. The coefficient is calculated on the basis of data on the number of new cases over the past 8 days and is used to make decisions on the transition to the first, second, or third stage of lifting the restrictions.
As of 7 July, the highest Rt was recorded in Sevastopol – 2.57 (a total of 254 cases of coronavirus have been registered in the city, 5 of them – over the last day; 5 infected people have died).
Crimea comes second with the coefficient of 2 (789 cases have been registered over the entire period of the pandemic and 28 – over the last day, 31 people have died). Chukotka Autonomous Okrug rounds out the top three with the coefficient of 2.
An outbreak of coronavirus occurred in the Administration of the capital of Krasnodar Krai. 70% of Krasnodar Mayor's office employees were quarantined, Russian media reported on 13 July 2020:
“Last week, all divisions of the Mayor's office moved to remote work, only 30% of employees remained in the offices. This information was confirmed by the mayor of Krasnodar at the operational meeting.
70% of the administration staff in all divisions have moved to remote work, in particular, it is obligatory for employees over 65. Compulsory disinfecting is carried out in the building, the temperature is taken at the entrance, the face mask requirement has to be complied with, and hand sanitizers are available in all offices”, the city’s press office explained to Komsomolskaya Pravda Kuban.
Earlier, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that one of those infected with coronavirus was the chairwoman of the Krasnodar City Duma Vera Galushko. In addition, her deputy Tatyana Gelunenko was also diagnosed with COVID. Behind the scenes, people in the administration say that on 28 June, Galushko celebrated her birthday, and after that she got sick.
In the Monitoring Group’s opinion, the information provided does not give us a reason to talk about "the end of the blockade". By contrast, this once again confirms that the decrease in the duration of artificial delays has been caused by the coronavirus epidemic and its possible combination with disinformation efforts by the Russian Federation.
* * *
For reference: the areas where freedom of navigation was violated are marked on the map – see Figure 4.
* * *
This publication has been produced with the support of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). Its contents do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of EED. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in this publication lies entirely with the authors.
More on the topic
- 14.08.2020 The Duration of Artificial Delays of Vessels in the Kerch Strait Returns to Pre-Epidemic Figures. The Monitoring for July 2020
- 16.06.2020 Russia's Economic War Against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and COVID-19. The Monitoring Results for May 2020
- 16.05.2020 Russia's economic war against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov: "loosening the grip" or the fear of catching the virus? – The monitoring for April 2020
- 14.04.2020 The monitoring of the situation in the Azov Sea - March 2020
- 12.03.2020 The monitoring of the situation in the Azov Sea - February 2020
- 16.02.2020 On the Legal status of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait
- 17.01.2020 The monitoring of the situation in the Azov Sea - update December 2019