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Estonia stance on Kerch Strait amongst clearest, says Ukrainian portal

Analysis of the recent Kerch Strait incident on the eurointegration.com website.
Analysis of the recent Kerch Strait incident on the eurointegration.com website. Source: eurointegration.com.ua

An online Ukrainian news portal as been quick to praise the response from Estonia and the other two Baltic States, Latvia and Lithuania, in the aftermath of the Kerch Strait incident.

"The Baltic states were the most sincere and outspoken supporters of Ukraine, calling things by their right names regardless of whether truths might be unpalatable to Russia," news website eurointegration.com.ua stated.

The incident on 25 November saw Russian naval vessels fire on Ukrainian ships passing through the Kerch Strait which separates the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea, en route to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Six Ukrainian sailors were injured in the attack and over 20 detained by Russian authorities. The western shore of the strait is part of Crimea, which has de facto fallen under Russian rule since 2014.

"It [ie. the Baltic States' reactions] is not the least surprising ‒ these countries lived under Soviet occupation for over 50 years and understand what kind of adversary we are dealing with," the website continued. 

Baltic foreign ministries respond in close succession

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius (LSDP) was the first Baltic government member to speak out, condemning Russia's actions and deeming them an aggression against Ukraine, before the precise nature of the incident, including that shots had been fired, was known.

Mr Linkevičius's response was soon followed by those of his counterparts in Latvia and Estonia. Edgars Rinkēvičs (Unity), the Latvian foreign minister, condemned the incident as running counter to international law, again before the fact of shots being fired had been divulged, and an hour after that, shortly before ten thirty on the Sunday night, Sven Mikser (SDE), Estonia's foreign minister, followed suit in condemning the attack and calling on Russia to release vessels it had seized.

However that was not the end of the reaction, as more details of what had happened came to light.

"Later on, colleagues in the Baltic states came up with new, still tougher statements, which give hope that we have real friends in Europe," the eurointegration.com.ua contined. "Most consistent in this, however, has been Estonia," it added.

Presidential and prime ministerial reactions

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) made a statement a few hours after Mr Mikser, also calling on Russia to immediately release the Ukrainian naval personnel and ships seized, and to take steps to alleviate tensions.  

President Kersti Kaljulaid added in a statement on Tuesday, 27 November, that Russia had attacked Ukrainian military vessels on the Azov Sea and that we must use the accurate terms, ie. that this is war in Europe.

Ms Kaljulaid urged the international community and democratic world leaders to join her in the statement and to condemn Russian actions in the Kerch Strait immediately, clearly, collectively, plus demand a stop to the aggression. 

The next day, Wednesday, 28 November, Estonia became the first nation to summon its Russian ambassador over the attack. 

The eurointegration.com.ua media portal is further claiming a hearts and minds victory in the international media in the aftermath of the incident. It states that most European countries condemned the attack in terms similar to those issued by all three Baltic States. Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Serbia are exceptions to this, the portal says. Reaction by politicians and the media in these countries was either not seen, or was ambivalent or careful not to point the finger at Russia, the portal reportedly states.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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