14 sailors die in Kerch explosion

14 sailors die in Kerch explosion

At least 14 crew members have died after two commercial vessels caught fire while anchored near the strategic flashpoint of the Kerch Strait, close to the Crimea-Russia border, according to the Russian Transport Ministry.

Five other sailors were reported missing in the narrow channel, which links the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov.

The ships had crews of 16 Turkish citizens and 15 Indians and both sail under the Tanzanian flag.
Russia’s media reported that one of the vessels was hit by an “explosion” and sailors jumped overboard to escape the blaze.

The Russian Federal Agency for the Sea and River Transport said the fire erupted while fuel was being pumped between the vessels, spreading between the ships.

Rescuers reportedly saved 12 people from the water

In November, Russia detained three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait. They are accused by Moscow of illegally crossing into Russian territory.
Ukraine condemned the move, denying that its ships had violated the navigation laws and disputing that its vessels should require Moscow’s permission.

Russia last week said it had agreed that France and Germany could monitor shipping in the strait following November’s naval confrontation but the foreign observers had yet to arrive.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron raised their concerns with President Vladimir Putin over the tensions in the Kerch Strait at the G20 summit in Argentina in December.

Germany and France are members of the “Normandy Four” group, along with Russia and Ukraine, which was set up to resolve the conflict in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said France and Germany had not yet agreed on a start date to the mission but that he expected it to be a “topic in the coming weeks”.

The Russian Federation Council reportedly says it plans to consider within the next three months a bill set to introduce penalties for failing to mark the Crimean peninsula as part of Russia on maps.

A “senator” from the annexed peninsula, Sergey Tsekov, said: “The practice of using maps without the peninsula actually violates the integrity of the state’s borders.

“We plan to introduce responsibility for the incorrect indication of Crimea’s territorial affiliation. Earlier we sent a similar bill to the federation council, but then we decided to recall and finalise it,” he said.

A highly disputed referendum was held for Crimeans to decide on accession to Russia with 96.8 per cent opting to join Russia.


The Kerch Strait is becoming a global security flashpoint. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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