Russian-Flagged Drilling Platforms Spotted in Ukraine’s Maritime Exclusive Economic Zone

On December 1, the Ukrainian border control vessel, the Hrigoriy Kuropiatnykov, spotted two Russian drilling platforms in the Odeske gas field, part of Ukraine’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), near Odessa.  The two drilling platforms in question, the Ukraine and Tavryda, were seized by Russian forces after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.  The same platforms were previously observed  operating in the same region back in July of this year in both the Odeske and Holitsynske gas fields.  Russian naval vessels protected the platforms during this earlier event as well.

According to the Ukrainian border service, their vessel was blocked from approaching the drilling platforms by a Russian naval vessel, the Pytlivy.  The Russian vessel imposed a 3 km “safety zone” around the platforms, physically preventing the Ukrainians from proceeding closer through a series of unsafe blocking maneuvers.  A number of armed men were also observed on the drilling platform, a violation of UN maritime law that forbids armed soldiers from being stationed on such platforms.

This continued violation of international law by Moscow to prosecute the theft of Ukraine’s potentially huge oil and gas reserves further raises the possibility of conflict or serious military incidents in the Black Sea in the relatively near-term (especially given that these incidents appear to be taking place in waters beyond even the new Russian-claimed Crimean waters, i.e., in clearly Ukrainian territory).  Romania, with recent offshore energy discoveries of its own, should be alarmed by this brazen Kremlin-directed behavior so close to its EEZ, premised on asserted rights to defend its energy assets and investments.