Taking into account the “sea flurry” of Russia’s propaganda in connection with the innocent passage of the British warship HMS Defender off the Crimean coast, “ARC” quotes the commentary of an expert, military lawyer, PhD Eduard Pleshko.

He recalls, that the first “information mine” about the alleged Russian attack on the Defender “blew up” the site of the Russian “Interfax” agency [1]. Such news appeared on June 23, 2021 at 13:52 Moscow time and it concerned an event at Black Sea near the Crimean Cape Fiolent less than two hours before that. At the same time, as of the moment, satellite images of the “Sentinel-2” mission launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Copernicus Program are available for remote sensing, as the observation of the Earth’s surface.

From the analysis of the photo, it follows that at 8:45:59 UTC on June 23 (that is, at 11:45:59 Moscow time), the satellite recorded that two other vessels thast were located next to the HMS Defender warship. At the indicated time, the Defender was located at a point with coordinates 44° 23´48.5´´ north latitude and 33°17´31.6´´ east longitude and she was moving in a southeast direction.

Behind this British ship, at a distance of about 6 and 11 kilometers, there were two vessels of the “Coast Guard of the Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia”. From the analysis of the video content presented by the Russians and by the BBC, it follows that these are precisely the “characters” with tail numbers 362 and 364, respectively. Air objects such as planes, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as traces of the use of aviation weapons in the observation area have not been found for that time.

Well, then let’s turn to Russian sources. For example, a video was posted on the Internet for the alleged FSB publication of video materials about the incident with the Defender [2]. But such video has signs of editing, somewhat distorts the possibility of a proper assessment, so it is better to compare it with another Russian source, for example, with the one outlined by the propaganda channel “RT” [3]. At 38 seconds of the “RT” video, two objects are clearly visible in front of the Russian “border boats”, which was opening fire. The location of these objects is fully consistent with the previous satellite photo.

Next, you should evaluate the screenshot immediately after the shots of the artillery mount of the Russian boat with tail number 364. The red arrow indicates the place of shelling, and the other three arrows indicate the location of the HMS Defender. It is easy to see that the distance to the ship is almost three times farther and not in any way in the course of its movement. But if the corner “0” on the side had not been observed, as mentioned in another video, then another Russian “border boats” could have got into the affected area under “friendly fire”. I wonder what Russian propagandists and diplomats would say then.

Let us recall that according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [4], the right of innocent passage through territorial waters cannot be politicized and in any way limited without clearly defined grounds. Everything else in international law is called the discrimination. It should not be forgotten that no matter how “powerful sea power” the Russian Federation considers itself, its claims have no legal force and legal grounds, and the fact of the temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine, including Ukraine’s territorial waters near Sevastopol, without a decision of Ukraine does not limit the actions any warship of a third country.

We add that in the event of a legal temporary restriction of movement in a certain section of the sea area, it must be confirmed by the issuance of a formalized document – coastal warning by the authorized coordinator of the maritime geographical area. After issuing a warning, the party conducting the firing exercise must ensure that the water area is protected and immediately cease dangerous activities if unauthorized vessels are found. Fixing the passage of such another ship, she, of course, cannot fail to fire shots in its direction. Such a case in international law has a clear definition of provocation.

Although, of course, maritime security, even for especially vulnerable merchant shipping, has never been a priority for Russians. For example, in April 2000, 13 ships and support vessels of the Russian Black Sea Fleet were guarding the firing area in the Black Sea, but they did not see the Ukrainian vessel “Vereshchagino” performing a charter flight from Istanbul to Skadovsk in the Kherson region and did not have time to receive a warning about the closure of the area in advance.

As a result of this “protection”, the civil ship was hit by a blank cruise missile “Progress”, on which the 37-year-old electrician Vadim Ponomarenko received multiple shrapnel wounds to the torso, upper and lower extremities. Then the Russians, in order to “justify” their militaristic “holiday”, tried to place the blame for the incident on the Ukrainian captain of “Vereshchagino”.

On October 15-16 of the same 2000, the coast guard ships of the Federal Border Service of the FSB of the Russia, during the pursuit of the Turkish vessel “Khachi Hiam Bay”, used naval weapons directly off the Ukrainian coast. Then the shells of the naval cannon of the Russians hit the Ukrainian territory and constituted a real threat to the life of the border guards and citizens of Ukraine who were there. Of course, then there was not a single mention of any apology from the Russians.

Therefore, the current violations of the maritime law by Russina are not surprising and they only make one think about the sad and inevitable consequences of the relevant acts.

1. https://www.interfax.ru/russia/773545

2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NS5elmFGYY

3. https://russian.rt.com/russia/video/877640-fsb-pogranichniki-esminec-ogon

4. https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_r.pdf