The weaponless Ukrainian search and rescue vessel has caused a wave of official statements and news in the Russian media. This refers to the ship Donbas that carried out assignments in the Sea of Azov and approached the Kerch Strait at a distance of 30 km on December 9. The Russian FSB stated that the ship seemed to pose a threat to navigation.
"At present, Donbas is located at a distance of 18 nautical miles to the Kerch Strait, it does not fulfill the requirement to change the course. These actions pose a threat to the safety of navigation," the outlet Interfax quotes the statement of the Russian FSB.
The secret service added that the Ukrainian side did not submit relevant applications for passage through the Kerch–Yenikale canal. When asked by the Coast Guard, the Ukrainian sailors replied that they were not going to pass through the Kerch Strait.
The FSB press center reports quickly spread across various Russian media outlets. Amid the excitement, editor-in-chief of RT (Russia Today) Margarita Simonyan posted on her Twitter account the message "Has it started, or what? Mother Russia, don't let us down."
The propagandist Vladimir Solovyov could not ignore this theme either. He started a broadcast, during which he discussed with the guests of the broadcast the potential options of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Subsequently, the FSB reported that Donbas set the opposite course. Simonyan reacted to this with the message "Let's fan out" and added a sad smiley.
How Ukraine comments on situation with vessel Donbass
The press service of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) stated that the Ukrainian Navy headquarters ship Donbas had not entered the Azov Sea areas that are "sensitive" for Russians.
Oleksiy Reznikov, the Minister of Defense, called the excitement around the ship another Russian bogus story.
"Another informational bogus story on the part of Russia. It is very strange that the Russian special services saw a threat from a search and rescue vessel—a vessel without weapons, when FSB ships are constantly located 2 kilometers from Mariupol and Berdiansk. Russian ships are armed with 30 mm cannons. In general, the Sea of Azov is a shared water area, we are there legally. The fact that they represent a distance of 18 miles (30 km) as a danger to them speaks only of another manipulation," the Minister commented to the outlet Ukrainska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth—Ed. note).
Additionally. The active dissemination of information about the situation with the Ukrainian vessel Donbas coincided with a telephone conversation between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Joe Biden, the Presidents of Ukraine and the United States.
Context. Recall: in November 2018, Russian border guards detained the Ukrainian ships Nikopol, Berdiansk, and Yany Kapu with 24 crew members. At that time Ukrainian sailors were arrested and accused of illegally crossing the Russian border.
On May 25, 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Russia to immediately return ships and sailors under Ukrainian control.
Russia actually refused to comply with this decision, since the sailors were not released, and on September 7 they were exchanged. The ships were returned only on November 18.