The Turkish government said it had officially banned warships from sailing into the Black Sea from the Mediterranean Sea in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The only connection between these water bodies is a pair of straits that lie entirely within Turkish sovereign territory and are under its sole jurisdiction. This is the latest in a series of extremely important actions by the international community regarding the fighting in Ukraine, as you can read more about in previous continuing coverage of this conflict here.
POSTED: 5:20 PM EST —
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu have both confirmed the closure of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles to warships from any countries, citing provisions of the 1936 Montreaux Convention, in separate remarks this evening. Cavusoglu had indicated that a formal decision on the matter was imminent late yesterday, a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his thanks to Turkish authorities for taking the step.
“When Turkey is not a belligerent in the conflict, it has the power to restrict the passage of warships from warring states through the strait,” Cavusoglu said. Yesterday he stressed that the position of the Turkish government was that what was happening in Ukraine was a “war” rather than a “conflict”, a difference in language that matters when it comes to the Montreaux Convention.
“Turkey will use its authority over the Turkish Strait under the 1936 Montreux Convention to prevent the Russian-Ukrainian ‘crisis’ from getting worse,” Erdogan said. He added that he would not abandon his ties with Russia, where he has cultivated an important personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin or Ukraine.
It remains to be seen how this closure can actually affect Russian military activities in and around the Black Sea, or those of any other country. The Montreaux Convention gives the Kremlin an important loophole in this particular case given that it is a so-called “riparian” state with a Black Sea coastline and therefore has different rights from “non-coastal” countries. residents”.
“If the warship returns to its base in the Black Sea, the passage is not closed,” said Cavusoglu, which complies with the terms of the Convention. “We adhere to the Montreux rules.”
In principle, this could mean that, if Russia wanted to, it could simply reassign ships to its Black Sea Fleet and then declare them “returning” to their base.
Regardless, the Russian Navy already has a sizeable force in the Black Sea, which includes ships that were deployed there before the invasion. This includes a flotilla of six large amphibious ships, three from the Baltic Fleet and three from the Northern Fleet, which entered the Black Sea earlier this month. These ships, among others, have almost certainly contributed to reported amphibious operations along Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, as well as its shores along the adjacent Sea of Azov to the north.