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    Polish geopolitical expert on martial law in Ukraine and Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov

    The recent attack on 3 Ukrainian Navy Vessels by Russian Naval Forces in the Kerch Strait has once again destabilized the security situation in Ukraine and Central Eastern Europe. The Ukrainian vessels were both rammed and fired upon before the 23 Ukrainian sailors on board were taken captive by Russian special forces. On Wednesday November 28th, martial law came into force in the regions of Ukraine that border with Russia or the eastern regions which have seen fighting with separatist forces and the regular Russian Army.

    Poland Daily met with Professor Jerzy Targalski, one of Poland’s most famous geopolitical analysts, to talk about the escalating and dangerous situation in Eastern Ukraine.
     
    -Let’s start with the legal situation. Did Russia have the right to take control of the three vessels according to international law?
     
    -No, they didn’t since both countries signed a treaty years ago which allows ships from both countries to pass through the Kerch Strait. This treaty was signed when Crimea was still controlled by Kiev. Now the Russians are trying to force the world to recognize the claim that the Kerch Strait is nothing but Russian territorial waters and as a result they are trying to block access to the Sea of Azov. It’s something that will deepen the economic crisis in Ukraine as much of the export of Ukrainian steel and grains goes through the Sea of Azov. Russia has actually been disrupting the free passage of Ukrainians ships in the Sea of Azov for months but the West has largely ignored the problem.
     
    -Is it fair to assume that Russia’s latest actions in the Sea of Azov are an attempt to influence the outcome of next year’s Presidential election in Ukraine?
     
    -Well, Russia has been meddling in Ukrainian elections for a long time, in recent years primarily with attempts to weaken the Ukrainian economy and to create an environment with a very poor socio-economic situation, high unemployment and political instability leading to chaos. It would create a scenario in which highly radical forces grow on one side and pro-russian forces on the other and the two will battle it out, which would result in a paralyzed and weak Ukrainian state. In such an environment, it would be easy for Russia to rebuild its influence in Ukraine. The general goal is for the central authority to weaken as a result of a social crisis so that citizens are tricked into starting to think that maybe it’s a good idea to let Russia take the reins once more so that they can return to stability, order and have food on the table once again.
     
    – Is it possible Russia is attempting to create unrest particularly in Eastern Ukraine through the naval blockade of the Kerch Strait in order to facilitate another attack on the city of Mariupol?
     
    -We have to remember that while Western Ukraine is the agricultural center of the country, which paradoxically makes it more stable, Eastern Ukraine and especially places such as Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, are the industrial centers of Ukraine. So, if the industries of those regions could be driven to bankruptcy by not being able to export their products or just function normally, then you would have masses of unemployed people in those cities. That is naturally something that could destabilize any country.
     
    -So it looks like we will have to keep our eyes on Eastern Ukraine in the coming months and keep our fingers crossed that we won’t witness any escalation. Thank you for talking to us professor.
     
    -Certainly so. Thank you for have me.

     

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