Ukrainian Navy Commander Ihor Voronchenko said Thursday his country was seeking to make the Bosphorus strait in Turkey off-limits to Russia after last week’s sea clash.
The officer said at an international conference on maritime security he was confident that the global community would recognize Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships as an act of aggression.
"We will ask for Bosphorus in Turkey to be closed [to Russia]," Voronchenko was quoted as saying by Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency.
"In accordance with the Montreux Convention, namely Paragraph 19, we will seek the closure of the Bosphorus in the Republic of Turkey to make the Russians understand what it means to violate international law," he stated.
The strait unites the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Its closure would prevent Russian ships in the Black Sea from sailing to the Mediterranean. Straits in Turkey have been open to all shipping since WWI.
The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits was adopted in 1936, restoring Turkey’s sovereignty over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. The Convention preserves freedom of passage for merchant ships from all countries through the straits. However, the regime of passage for warships from Black Sea countries and non-Black Sea states is different with significant restrictions having been imposed on the latter ones. Also, Turkey has the right to forbid the passage of warships if it finds itself at war, or if it sees a direct threat to its security. The strait can also be closed to ships of states at war, even if Turkey is not involved in the conflict.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he discussed the possibility of a Turkish mediation to resolve tensions and held separate telephone conversations with Putin and Poroshenko on Thursday.
Russia says the two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug entered its waters illegally as they tried to sail through a temporarily closed area in the Kerch strait. Their crews were detained.
UKRAINE URGES NATO TO DEPLOY WARSHIPS
In an interview in the German daily Bild, published Thursday, Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko laid out his hope that NATO would "relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security" against Russia.
NATO said that it already has a strong presence in the Black Sea region. The alliance's spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said NATO ships routinely patrol and exercise in the Black Sea, and that they have spent 120 days there this year compared to 80 in 2017.
She said several NATO allies conduct air policing and reconnaissance flights in the region, and that members Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey border the Black Sea and have their own military equipment deployed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she plans to press Russian President Vladimir Putin at this weekend's G-20 summit in Argentina about his country's seizure of three Ukrainian ships and their crews.
Merkel told a Ukrainian business summit in Berlin on Thursday that Germany is urging the release of the ships and crews and that she would confront Putin at the summit.