The Russian Navy has been taking full control of strategic ports in the region given the lack of a professional Ukrainian Navy and an embattled Ukrainian Air Force. And now, Moscow may be turning the tide by taking full control of the Kerch Strait. So, what is the Kerch Strait and how is it changing the course of the war? Let’s find out.
The junction of all junctions
The Kerch Strait is an extremely strategic passage that links the Black Sea via the Sea of Azov to some of Russia’s major waterways including the Don and the Volga.
Located in the far Eastern region of Crimea, it also enables maritime transit from the Caspian Sea (via the Volga-Don Canal) to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Further, the Volga also acts as a link between the Caspian Sea on one hand and the Baltic Sea and the Northern Sea route on the other hand.
So, you can really imagine the Kerch Strait as a junction of junctions. It creates a huge system of waterways connecting important areas like the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Baltic and the Northern Sea Route. From Russia’s perspective, control over this narrow passageway is a means of pursuing its Great Power ambitions in Eastern Europe and even the Arctic. This is what makes the Kerch Strait a significantly important location.
Russia’s control over Kerch Strait
On its part, Moscow has been trying to control the Kerch Strait for quite some time now.
Back in 2014, Crimea was annexed by Russia. Western media called it an invasion and Russia called it a referendum. The glossary represented the divergent opinions of the two sides.
Anyhow, what Crimea’s annexation meant was that Russia was able to extend its Black Sea coastline to include the entire coastline of the Crimean Peninsula as well. Since then, the easternmost part of Crimea, that is, the Kerch Strait too is being effectively monitored by Russia.
While Russia occupied Crimea that is located West of the strategic passage, Russia’s Krasnodar region is located Eastwards of the Kerch Strait. So, Russia can sandwich it from both sides. During the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, this played a crucial role as Ukraine lost access to its Eastern territories including the crucial Mariupol port city.
Read more: Ukraine surrenders Mariupol to Russia
Russia gains full control of Kerch Strait
To make things worse for Ukraine, Russia now fully controls the Kerch Strait. Earlier, Russia enjoyed only the power to monitor the Strait. But today, it controls the entire Azov Sea region also from Mariupol to Khersonm.
Sea of Azov coastline was probably the last front from where Ukraine could have put up a respectable fight to defend the Kerch Strait. However, Russia has taken full control of the Kerch Strait and the strategic points surrounding it. This really has the effect of cutting off Ukraine’s access to its Eastern territories like Luhansk and Donetsk.
Russia’s control over Kerch Strait therefore allows Russia to achieve its twin war objectives- control over Ukraine’s Eastern territories and greater maritime control in the region right at the junction of some commercially strategic sea lanes. Russian advances have thus changed everything in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.