Small Wars Journal

Hybrid War in the Sea of Azov

Hybrid War in the Sea of Azov by Jonathan Hall - Wavell Room

In a war which has claimed the lives of over 10,000 people, Russia’s increasing maritime presence in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov has quickly transformed the region into one of the main strategic bridgeheads in the conflict.

Officially opening on 16 May, Moscow successfully constructed a bridge across the Kerch Strait, connecting Crimea to mainland Russia. Important to note, the Kerch Strait is the only waterway through which the sea’s maritime shipping may navigate to and from the Black Sea. In recent months, Russia has been weaponizing their growing control in the Sea of Azov in what has been termed their “Boa Constrictor Strategy” (Тактика Удава).

Part of a larger strategy of economic warfare, as of June 2018, over 150 container ships have been restricted from passing under the bridge to the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, becoming subject to search by Russian naval vessels. With search times upwards of 24 hours or more, costing shipowners 4-5 thousand dollars per trip, maritime traffic has been severely hamstrung to Ukraine’s fifth and eighth largest ports in terms of volume of trans-shipped goods, respectively. With 80% of Ukraine’s maritime exports leaving through these two ports, concerns have been raised that another economic crisis might be triggered throughout the Donbas region as thousands of jobs are being lost…

Read on.