Russia could likely lay its claim over the Sea of Azov in eastern Europe, now that it has annexed four Ukrainian regions surrounding the water body: Donetsk, Luhansk (both in the Donbas region), Kherson & Zaporizhzhia.
The 39,000 sqkm Sea of Azov is connected to the Black Sea by 4km-narrow Strait of Kerch. Russia’s two large navigable rivers - the Don and the Kuban - flow into it. The sea is bounded by Russia on the east, by Ukraine (Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson) on the northwest, and by Crimea on the southwest.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 following an internationally disputed referendum supporting reunification.
“An internal sea is a sea that is surrounded by the shores of one state. In relation to the Sea of Azov, such a state is Russia (after the entry of new regions)," Sevastopol State University’s Associate Professor, Candidate of Sciences (Law) Anna Poshivailova, was quoted as saying by TASS on Thursday.
The lawyer said Russia’s authority over the sea will allow it to “fully control shipping, fishing rules, environmental safety, legal status of seaports, as well as regulations on economic activities such as laying of pipelines.”
She added that the Sea of Azov had been Russia’s inland body of water for two centuries, after which USSR’s collapse led to its control by both Russia and Ukraine. “Now, the situation in the Sea of Azov will again become controlled and clear uniform rules will apply,” she said.
Poshivailova warned of any intervention by third parties. “Other states do not have the right to interfere in any way in any work in the Sea of Azov from the legal viewpoint. But there is another aspect that concerns international relations and politics,” she said.
She stressed the situation involving the Sea of Azov could not affect, for example, the Black Sea straits, because the rules of passage through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles are regulated by special international treaties, and they do not imply such interconnection.