War of the SEAS: Russia halts ships in Azov Sea as Ukraine demands Turkey close Black Sea

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War of the SEAS: Russia halts ships in Azov Sea as Ukraine demands Turkey close Black Sea

The move comes as Russia escalates its military operations in Eastern Ukraine as Vladimir Putin sends in support to breakaway provinces loyal to Mo

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The move comes as Russia escalates its military operations in Eastern Ukraine as Vladimir Putin sends in support to breakaway provinces loyal to Moscow. With Russian troops entering Ukraine from the Crimean border, the Black Sea is seen as a vital strategic location in regional security.

Navigation in and out of the Black Sea to the Mediterranean passes through the Bosphorus river in Istanbul.

With Turkey being a NATO member, calls for action could see Ankara being forced to make a strategic decision on the move.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised “a special military operation” against Ukraine on Thursday to eliminate what he called a serious threat, saying his aim was to demilitarise Russia’s southern neighbour.

The Azov sea is home to shallow water ports of smaller capacity.

With Russia being the world’s largest exporter of wheat, much of the traffic of the commodity passes through the Azov sea located between Russia, Crimea and Ukraine.

“All ships are on stop,” a grain industry source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Russia and Ukraine account for 29% of global wheat exports, 19% of world maize (corn) supplies, and 80% of world sunflower oil exports.

Russia produced 76 million tonnes of wheat last year and is expected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to export 35 million tonnes in the July-June season, 17% of the global total.

Russia supplies wheat to all the major global buyers. Turkey and Egypt are the largest importers.

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Russia has deployed key naval assets, thousands of miles from their bases in the Arctic and Pacific, to positions near Ukraine.

Outside the Black Sea, in the Mediterranean, more naval forces are ready.

These can be viewed as an outer layer of defence, primarily against NATO involvement.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has been bolstered by amphibious landing ships and combatants from the Arctic, Baltic, Pacific and Caspian.

Earlier this month six amphibious landing ships, normally based in the Arctic and Baltic Seas, also moved to the Black Sea.

Any assets in the Azov Sea places them adjacent to the city of Mariupol in the Donetsk region.

Other Russian warships and auxiliaries are positioned west of Crimea, near the Ukrainian coast.

These are likely to include the Admiral Grigorovich Class frigate Admiral Essen and other combatants.

It also includes the Yug Class survey ship Donuzlav which appears to be being used for intelligence gathering.

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Global condemnation has been pouring in against Russia.

The EU has vowed to slap harsh sanctions on Moscow and has seen Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell label the situation as the “darkest hour” since World War II.

The US has seen President Joe Biden state Russia will be held accountable for any loss of life.

Huge queues have already been witnessed as Ukrainians seek to flee the capital, with many worried the conflict will spark a mass refugee crisis in Europe.



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