Reports suggest that Russia’s ministry of defence will close the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, until October 2021.

The closure will come into force next week, effectively blocking the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk. It is being seen as a major escalation in the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has protested the move, which it said is being taken under the pretext of military exercises.

“These actions of the Russian Federation constitute another attempt to usurp Ukraine’s sovereign rights of a coastal state in violation of the norms and principles of international law, as Ukraine is in fact endowed with the right to regulate the navigation in these water areas of the Black Sea. ” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said in a statement.

“Also, these actions are a gross violation of the freedom of navigation, guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. According to the vonvention, Russia must not hinder or interfere with the transit passage through the international strait to the ports of the Sea of Azov,” it added.