Odessa, Ukraine: Unblocking the Ports

Those following the Ukraine news are aware that there is military activity taking place in and around Odessa.

The ports are blocked. It’s claimed foodstuffs are being held there. Who is blocking? Why? Advantages? Disadvantages? Spin?

What is really going on? Gathered some info as follows:


Ukraine has blocked 21 Turkish ships in Odessa, and Kiev is using them as live shields, the “Aydinlik” agency reported.

“According to the information we received, 21 ships that are not allowed to leave the port of Odessa belong to Turkey. Ukraine does not want these ships to leave the port, citing ‘danger’ and the remaining mines at sea. “Russia has opened a security corridor, but for now, passage is not allowed,” the paper writes.

He also states that the main goal is, in fact, something else – if foreign ships leave, the Ukrainians will become a clear target and Odessa will soon fall. That is why the Ukrainians do not release foreign ships, including 21 Turkish ships.

The paper also writes that one of the reasons why Turkish ships are delayed is that if the Russians start an operation in Odessa and attack Turkish vessels, it is believed that this will lead to tensions in Russian-Turkish relations.

Ukraine has the biggest advantage, gain, in keeping these ports blocked. They play the victim game, while being financially supported by international banking dollars and western money. Blocking forces the hands of the west. And it serves to tarnish Russia a bit more. Prevents Russia from advancing. While potentially causing huge problems for Turkey. -Which makes NATO happy. Can potentially create discord between Russia and Turkey- so despite claims made by them… the block potentially serves many of their goals.

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You can read the entire article at the link directly above the picture

If the bulk of Ukraine’s grain is to get out, it must be by sea. But how? Some people are now exploring the idea of naval convoys to escort merchant vessels in and out of Odessa and nearby ports. Mr Stavnitser hopes for a un convoy led by Turkey. James Stavridis, nato’s former supreme allied commander, has suggested taking a leaf out of the operation by America and some allies to protect oil tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

But James Foggo, the ex-commander of nato forces in the Mediterranean, argues the parallel is misleading. “The difference is: Iran was not a nuclear power. Russia is a nuclear power. Russia is a major power and there is a risk of escalation.” The tanker war was fraught; America’s warships were struck by Iraq and Iran and one of them mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner. (shot down by the US)

Convoys in the Black Sea face military, legal and political constraints. Begin with Russia’s “anti-navy”—the thicket of anti-aircraft, anti-shipping and electronic-warfare systems based in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. This allows it to dominate much of the Black Sea from the land. And despite the sinking of the Moskva, Russia’s flagship in the Black Sea, its naval forces remain powerful—including ships and submarines armed with Kalibr cruise missiles. Even if Russia shrinks from attacking convoys, says Michael Petersen of the us Naval War College, ships in port will be sitting ducks. Odessa is within range of Russia’s Bastion-b anti-ship cruise missiles in Crimea, he notes.
Ukraine has heavily mined its waters to prevent a Russian amphibious assault. Odessa’s beaches are closed and guarded by soldiers in camouflaged outposts. The port, including its famous Potemkin Stairs, is off-limits. Russia has laid mines, too. About 80 foreign ships are now stuck in Ukrainian waters; some have been sunk. (No word on who sunk these ships)

“Mining is easy; de-mining is complicated,” notes a Western diplomat. Ukraine lacks the capacity to clear the necessary sea-lanes. Moreover, says another diplomat, “If things are de-mined for the purposes of letting the wheat out, but then Russians are allowed to sneak in and attack Odessa, that’s a problem.”

Protecting convoys might require a substantial nato naval presence. This raises questions related to the Montreux Convention of 1936, which regulates shipping in the Turkish straits. Turkey has invoked Article 19, in effect barring passage to the navies of belligerent states—a move that affects Russia more than others. (?) Turkey has informally told other countries not to deploy warships in the Black Sea. It could take such measures formally under Article 21 if it felt “threatened with imminent danger of war”.

The convention anyhow limits war vessels from non-littoral states, and how long they can stay in the Black Sea. A nato operation would thus require the frequent rotation of ships. Turkey is a nato member and faces no such limits. But its dealings with Russia are ambiguous: it has sold Ukraine the much-celebrated Bayraktar tb-2 combat drone, but has also declined to impose sanctions on Russia and has allowed oligarchs’ superyachts to shelter in its waters.
The debate over convoys has echoes of the earlier one over imposing a no-fly zone over western Ukraine: are nato allies ready to risk a direct fight with Russia? President Joe Biden said no to a no-fly zone. That would risk “World War III”, he said. Without American backing, it is hard to imagine others confronting Russia.

Some in the un think—or hope—that Vladimir Putin, its president, will not want to be accused of causing global hunger. António Guterres, the un secretary-general, has suggested a deal whereby Russia would allow food shipments out of Odessa in exchange for easing of sanctions on fertiliser exports from Belarus and Russia.

America, which currently holds the presidency of the un Security Council, is pushing for action on improving food security generally. The effort is intended in part to prove to fence-sitting countries that the war in Ukraine, and the economic disruption it is causing, should be blamed on Russia, not the West. (A PR move to shift blame from the west onto Russia- the west does not have clean hands- not even close)

Western countries may yet put forward a motion calling for the reopening of Odessa, if only to force Russia to use its veto. (PR move) The un General Assembly, which includes all members, requires any country casting a veto to explain itself before the assembly within ten days. Russia may not care, says Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank. “In some ways the greatest risk is that Russia says yes to reopening Odessa but then creates all manner of procedural obstacles.”

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