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Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania at the end of 2018: More Challenges for the United States

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This opinion piece was written by Dr. Nicholas Dima. Dr. Dima was formerly a Professor of Geography and Geopolitics at Djibouti University, St. Mary’s University College and James Madison University. From 1975 to 1985 and from 1989 to 2001, Dr. Dima was a Writer and Field Reporter at Voice of America. The opinion does not necessarily represent the opinion of the editorial staff of Moldova.org.

***

Two important events are occurring currently in Eastern Europe and they could shape the future of the region and challenge U.S. national security interests. First, a quasi-religious war is shaking the Orthodox Church that may have consequences similar to the great schism which split Christendom in 1044. Second, Romania feels threatened by Russia and is strengthening its alliance with America. Moscow is wary of both evolutions.

After the Russo-Ukrainian war of 2014 and the Russian annexation of Crimea, the conflict between the two countries has been largely frozen. Yet, it has continued to simmer inside Ukraine and is now about to explode in the open. And this time the conflict is spiritual and involves the Orthodox Church.

Most Orthodox Churches are autocephalous (self-governing) and are led by national patriarchs. In turn, they are under the Universal Patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered primus inter pares. Ukraine, however, the second largest Orthodox Church, has never received autocephaly from Constantinople. Historically, Russia, which is the largest Orthodox Church, exercised leadership over all the orthodox people in the east, including Ukrainians and Belarusians. As long as Russia controlled the land, it also assumed spiritual control of the people through the Russian church headquartered in Moscow.

Currently, the Universal Orthodox Patriarchate led by Bartholomew I is about to grant autocephaly to Ukraine. This is dangerous for Moscow because it means an end to its spiritual control over the country and would also encroach greatly on Russia’s political role over the east. As Paul Goble, a researcher of the field, put it… autocephaly for Ukraine is a major defeat for both political and religious reasons… It represents the end of President Vladimir Putin’s dream of a ‘Russian World…’ (Eurasia Daily Monitor, October 16, 2018). In fact, Putin and Moscow were aiming at controlling the entire Orthodox world which extends from the Baltic to the Mediterranean seas. Ukrainian autocephaly would put a firm end to this goal. Besides losing Ukraine, Moscow also risks losing leverage over Belarus and over the ethnic Russian minorities in Moldova and other former Soviet republics.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which has always been an obedient arm of the government, reacted immediately. It broke relations with Constantinople and threatened to anathemize (excommunicate) the Universal Patriarchate. The answer of the Patriarchate was in kind and this marked the beginning of a new stage of a religious conflict. The canonical conflict would split deeply the Orthodox Church and would spill over into politics. Russia is already nervous, is threatening, and is becoming increasingly more aggressive.

The individual Eastern Orthodox Churches are divided on the issue. Canonically, they may align themselves with the Patriarch in Constantinople but politically is a different matter. The Armenians in the Caucasus and the Serbians and Bulgarians in south-east Europe will probably back Russia. That will isolate Romania, which is predominantly Orthodox but is overwhelmingly pro-Western. As for the Western reaction, Washington has already signaled that it will help Ukraine achieve autocephaly. The imminent canonical independence of the Kyiv church may lead to ethnic Russian riots in Ukraine and potentially to another military intervention. And a new conflict will be more widely spread than the previous one and may affect Romania directly.

Romania has canonical and territorial claims over Bessarabia and over other lands held now by Ukraine and Moldova. In the Republic of Moldova, like in Ukraine, the orthodox churches are split. Some belong to the Romanian Patriarchate in Bucharest and the others belong to Moscow. What will happen to the pro-Russian Moldovan churches if Ukraine acquires autocephaly?

On December 1 this year Romania marks one hundred years of modern independence, but instead of celebrating, it is worried about Russia. In the current confusion in the European Union, Bucharest is turning increasingly toward Washington for political, military, and geopolitical support. In fact, Romania is now one of the main pivots of U.S. policy in Eastern Europe. This is reflected in several bilateral treaties and accords. One such accord states:

Romania shares the U.S. commitment to transatlantic security, and fully supports endeavors to improve the effectiveness of NATO and strengthen its capabilities to address the current challenges… Thus, we are particularly appreciative to our U.S. ally for its strong political support and substantial contribution to projects such as the multinational brigade hosted by Romania, the enhanced maritime presence in the Black Sea or the Combined Joint Enhanced Training Program…’

The official statements stress that this year, besides celebrating the Romanian centennial, Bucharest also marks the 21st anniversary of the U.S.-Romanian Strategic Partnership. This treaty, signed in Washington in 1994, is considered a key factor in shaping Romania’s strategy as an American ally. Accordingly, Romanian and U.S. troops participated together on military missions in various operation areas such as the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Since its first deployment, the Romanian military contributed with more than 46,000 uniformed personnel and of these 34 were killed in action and 226 were wounded.

In addition, the United States built an important anti-missile base in southern Romania which is already operational and which has made Russia fume. A new conflict in Ukraine will also involve the current Republic of Moldova and will bring to the fore the old and unresolved question of Bessarabia…

Currently studying International Relations at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Study focus: Transnistrian conflict settlement, Moldovan statehood, Moldovan democracy. Inquiries at [email protected]

Opinion

Romania, Moldova and the US-Romanian Relations

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This opinion piece was written by Dr. Nicholas Dima. Dr. Dima was formerly a Professor of Geography and Geopolitics at Djibouti University, St. Mary’s University College and James Madison University. From 1975 to 1985 and from 1989 to 2001, Dr. Dima was a Writer and Field Reporter at Voice of America. The opinion does not necessarily represent the opinion of the editorial staff of Moldova.org.

***

On December 1st, Romania celebrated one hundred years since the modern reunification of the country. The nation traces its history back to the old kingdom of Dacia that existed two thousand years ago before the Roman conquest of the land. Then, throughout the middle ages, the Romanian nation lived primarily in the principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. The medieval Principality of Moldova included the current Republic of Moldova. In the course of history, however, two Romanian-inhabited provinces, Bukovina and Bessarabia (Northern and Eastern Moldova) were annexed by Austria and respectively, by Russia. At the end of the First World War and based on their Romanian majority the two provinces reunited with Romania. Thus, modern Romania, like most Eastern European nations, came into being at the end of the war. The Principle of self-determination of Nations, formulated by the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, was the cornerstone for rebuilding Eastern Europe.

Subsequently, the Paris Peace Treaty brought a period of stability and tranquility to the continent. During the inter-war period, Romania maintained very good relations with the United States and with her traditional Western European allies. While Austria renounced any further claims, the newly created USSR sought continuously to re-annex Bessarabia. Thus, following the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of 1939, the Soviet troops invaded Romania and annexed again not only Bessarabia but also northern Bukovina.

It is worth reminding that Malborne Graham, an American diplomat, published an article in 1944 titled “The Legal Status of the Bukovina and Bessarabia” (American Journal of International Law, October 1944). He wrote that this disputed area of Eastern Europe represented “the most critical territorial problem bequeathed to the present generation as a direct legacy of the age-old Eastern Question.” This territorial problem is still pending.

In 1989, after the dismemberment of the USSR, Moldova declared its independence. However, to this day the truncated land that makes the current Republic of Moldova is still manipulated by Putin and by his men in Chisinau. Consequently, the population has suffered and continues to suffer political oppression and economic hardship. Reminding this historical context on June 26, 1991, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 148. Here are a few excerpts:

To express the sense of the Senate that the United States should support the right to self-determination of the people of the Republic of Moldavia and northern Bucovina… Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the United States Government should–

(1) Support the right of self-determination of the people of Soviet-occupied Moldavia and northern Bucovina and issue a statement to that effect; and

(2) Support future efforts by the Government of Moldavia to negotiate peacefully, if they so wish, the reunification of Romania with Moldavia and Northern Bucovina as established in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1920, the prevailing norms of international law, and in conformity with Principle 1 of the Helsinki Final Act…”

Since 1944 when Graham wrote about the old ‘Eastern Question” and since 1991 when the U.S. Senate addressed the same question, this issue has remained unsolved. Nevertheless, since 1991 the Romanian-American relations have expanded steadily while Moldova has remained under Moscow.

As for the American-Romanian relations and according to official Bucharest sources:

…‘Romania shares the US commitment to transatlantic security, and fully supports endeavors to improve the effectiveness of NATO and strengthen its capabilities to address the current challenges. This can only be done by reinforcing the core pillar of the Alliance, which is collective defense, backed by a credible deterrence. Thus, we are particularly appreciative to our U.S. ally for its strong political support and substantial contribution to projects such as the multinational brigade hosted by Romania, the enhanced maritime presence in the Black Sea or the Combined Joint Enhanced Training Program’…

The 2014 Russo-Ukrainian war, the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the very current renewal of Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov require a new approach. It is high time for Washington to redefine its policy in the region. On December 1, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Romania on its centennial. It is a beautiful gesture, but it is not enough. America should realize once and for all that Romanians and Moldovans are the same people! It is in the strategic interest of the United States to do so!

Romania is currently a member of the European Union, a solid member of NATO, and a staunch American ally. In the new political climate and the new geopolitical configuration of Europe, Romania is one of the main pivots of U.S. policy in Eastern Europe. And Romania’s location by the Black Sea enhances her significance for America and the West in a region threatened by instability and aggressive neighbors. It is time for a new policy and approach.

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Important

What is it like to be a business woman in the Republic of Moldova?

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It is widely recognised that the women involved in business are not considered equal to men. Overall, they can be discriminated when applying for a job or when it comes to the wage payment, men being preferred for top management positions.

In the Republic of Moldova, a traditionalist country with values deeply rooted in the old socialist system, the situation is not better. According to a report issued in 2016 by the National Statistical Bureau (NBS), UNDP and UN Women, the number of females in Moldova that head a company, or an organisation is three times smaller than the number of men.

We gathered over time a multitude of interviews and reportages about the life and activity of Moldovan business women. All these women have told us about both good and bad things: about the sacrifices, challenges, benefits and advantages of being a female entrepreneur in Moldova. Here are the highlights of some of their stories:

Adriana Buciușcanu is the part-time manager and the owner of an educational centre in Orhei.

She started her own business during her maternal leave. This activity is taking a lot of her time and efforts, but Adriana never gives up as she is very passionate about what she does. Her business operates in an environment where the investment in education is not a priority. “People prefer clothes, food and other basic needs, rather than training or professional growth,” she said in an interview offered for Moldova.org.

The educational centre she administers organizes parenting informational sessions on how to build trust and an effective parent-child dialogue. Also, it offers English lessons for children, a kindergarten program, as well as after-school and weekend activities for pupils. At the moment, all sessions are for free, but the business wouldn’t last long like that. “We are not in that system, where the free of charge services could be offered. The only free cheese is in the mouse trap, ” explained the business woman, criticizing the strategy of the Orhei’s mayor – Ilan Shor of offering all public services for free.

The “Cheița fermecată” Centre coordinated by Adriana

Adriana Buciuşcanu was born in Orhei. She did her bachelor and graduate studies in Romania. For opening the educational centre, she applied for a financial aid to the United Nations Development Program. In the future, Adriana is going to apply for more grants in order to develop the centre’s infrastructure. Beside the managerial activity, Adriana is also working at the Orhei District Council, even though she is still in the maternal leave with her third child.

“It is quite difficult to get back to work after three years of staying at home and taking care of a child. But the quicker is the return to an active life, the greater the courage and enthusiasm of women becomes.”

Adriana encourages the gender equality: “If a man can manage a business very well, why a woman couldn’t do it? The society would have a lot of benefits from the equal involvement of women and men,” concludes Adriana.

Cristina Frolov is an entrepreneur and the managing director of the Mimi Castle, a wine producing company and a popular touristic attraction in Moldova.

Photo source: avantaje.ro

Cristina believes that a good manager is the one that can provide high quality services. “I like to organise events together with my team, to elaborate new concepts and projects that emphasise and communicate our values as a family, nation and a country,” said Cristina.

She works in a very competitive industry for the Republic of Moldova. “It’s hard to convince someone to buy your product when there are another 60 producers who do their job just as well,” claims Cristina. She has almost 200 subordinates, most of them being from the villages in the vicinity. “The winery produces up to 1 million bottles, 90% of which are exported to China and Germany,” she adds, while demonstrating her favourite kind of wine ‘Red de Bulboaca’.

When asked about the gender differences in business, she mentions the women’s ability to learn faster from others.

“Women need to be encouraged more. The moment society will understand that there is no difference between a woman and a man in doing a job, things will change.”

Nonna Mihălcean – psychologist, the coordinator of the Resource Centre for Teenagers and Youth “Anticafeneaua Bălți” and a very good leader, has a lot to say about how it is to be a woman involved in a lot of activities.

In one year, she managed to bring the centre of non-formal education to a new level. Today, the centre is visited by more than 2000 teenagers from Bălți. There are organised informative sessions, creative workshops, trainings, meetings with experts, film evenings, oratorical clubs, social theatre, presentations, sport clubs, social games, and other activities.

Nonna enjoys a lot to work with people, especially with teenagers. “I understood that there is an important category of people with a great potential. Young people can bring the change and we need to invest in them,” mentions Nonna. She has a psychologist office that is a part of her daily activity as well. According to the Nonna’s opinion, the women involved in a lot of activities carry a series of internal and external battles.

“Because they can’t leave the family behind, the active women tend to be present 24/7. They have to fight several battles.”

Victoria Dunford is an emigrant nurse that moved to Great Britain and chose to come back to Moldova afterwards to contribute to the improvement of the Moldovans’ life quality.

Photo source: osearaperfecta.md

She intended to stay in Great Britain only for two years, but then got married to a British citizen and settled in the country permanently. Her story begins with a dream she had: to transfer a part of the recycled medical equipment (that is still in a very good condition) from British hospitals to the Moldovan ones, where a penury of such equipment is registered.

At the beginning, it wasn’t easy at all to deliver a truck full of medical equipment to Moldova. “It is not like sending a parcel to your parents’ home. It needs a lot of paperwork, effort and stress,” said Victoria. This is why she decided to establish an organisation called MAD-Aid that means both “Make a difference” and “Medical Aid Deliver”. Every day, she fights for providing Moldovan hospitals that “have been left in the past for more than 50 years,” as Victoria’s husband told her once, with the necessary apparatus and furniture.

The Phoenix Centre coordinated by Victoria

After organising a donation event for the children who need wheelchairs and observing how big the potential of these isolated children is, Victoria decided to initiate a new project – a new medical centre for children with mobility deficiencies. Here, new challenges were waiting for her, as nobody took her seriously. She recalls that she cried after a meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection. “They asked me: why do you put the money in these children, who, anyway, do not have a future? Although I am strong, I began to cry. If you talk like this to a person who has come to invest, how do you talk to those who come to ask for help?” confessed Victoria.

“The last six weeks before the opening of the centre were critical and complicated. I was tired, but I knew for sure that if I died on September 20th, there was something left behind.”

After long years of hard work, her efforts were remunerated. She received in 2017 the British Empire Medal, an order offered by the Queen of Great Britain for the help she offered to children with special needs. “It is a shame that many have been more open to collaborate only after I received the medal from the Queen of Great Britain,” she declared with disappointment.

In the same year, she began to write a book entitled “Get Mad”, the main idea of which was to transmit to the Moldovan children the message that she was like them once, and she was just a simple girl that walked on the muddy roads of Mihăileni, her native village. “Anyone who has enough determination and puts enough work can go from rags to riches,” closed out Victoria.

Nowadays, there are 588.3 thousand women employed in the labour market in the Republic of Moldova, according to an NBS report in 2016. What’s interesting, is that 67% of these women were employed in a company, 26% were self-employed, 7% of the women in question were housewives and only 0.5% of women were registered as being entrepreneurs, as an infographic made by Moldova.org based in NBS data presents. On the other hand, the average female entrepreneurship rate in the European Union in 2014 was 10% of the total female active labour force.   

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Opinion

“The conflict in the Sea of Azov represents a reason to worry for Moldova” The crisis overview and the experts’ opinion

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A dangerous new crisis between Russia and Ukraine began after Russia seized 3 Ukrainian naval ships on Sunday morning, preventing them to enter the Kerch Strait – a narrow strip of water that links the Black and Azov seas and holds strategic importance for both countries.

According to the Ukrainian navy cited in the international media, a Russian vessel bumped into a Ukrainian tugboat Yany Kapu. Along with Berdiansk and Nikopol gunboats, it was transiting from Odessa to the port of Mariupol in the Sea of Azov. The Russian vessel opened fire and wounded several sailors. The tugboat Yany Kapu and the gunboat Berdiansk were disabled by the Russian forces and the undamaged Nikopol was taken under control. Russia sent two combat helicopters to the location of the incident, as reported by the Ukrainian Navy. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry declares in a statement that Russia acted “aggressively” and “illegally used force against the ships of the Ukrainian Navy.”

The office of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko qualified the Russian action against the Ukrainian navy ships as “an act of aggression aimed at deliberately escalating the situation in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.” It also called for international condemnation of Moscow and the imposition of new sanctions. “We consider such actions categorically unacceptable and this aggression has already led to consequences,” said Petro Poroshenko.

On the other hand, the Russian FSB security service states that the border patrol boats captured the Ukrainian naval vessels by using weapons. The FSB declared it was forced to take action as the Ukrainian boats illegally entered its territorial waters and ignored warnings to stop, according to the news agency TASS. “Weapons were used with the aim of forcibly stopping the Ukrainian warships,” the FSB said. The Russian media speculates that the incident in the Kerch Strait was a conspiracy between the U.S. and Ukrainian authorities for endangering the upcoming meeting between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit.

Source: Twitter

As a response to the crisis, Russia temporarily blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait by placing a tanker in the waters under a bridge controlled by Russians. The access way was reopened for the civilian ships only, according to TASS.

The conflict seems to escalate even more as on Monday the Ukrainian lawmakers voted, at the initiative of the country’s president Petro Poroshenko, to declare martial law in 10 regions of Ukraine for a term of 30 days, starting in the morning of November 28th. The martial law also specifies that the election of President of Ukraine was set to March 31st, 2019.

International community

European Union and NATO support the Ukraine sovereignty and its territorial integrity and calls on Russia “to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea,” as Oana Lungescu, the spokesperson of NATO, declares in a statement to CNN. At the same time, Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs urged Ukraine and Russia “to refrain from any ratcheting up of actions or rhetoric,” as UN News reports. “[We] remind both [Russia and Ukraine] of the need to contain this incident so as to prevent a serious escalation that may have unforeseen consequences,” she said.

Source: UN News

Several European states, including Romania and Republic of Moldova expressed their concern regarding the development of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait conflict. “Aggression & violation of international law undermine the security of the whole region,” declares the service of the Romanian Ministry of External Affairs. The Moldovan Ministry of External Affairs and European Integration expressed its “profound concern” regarding the occurring events as well. “We firmly blame any acts of aggression and provocation that undermine the regional security,” the ministry said. Both Romanian and Moldovan Ministries support “the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and its rights to use its territorial waters.”

Experts’ opinion

Rosian Vasiloi, the IDIS “Viitorul” expert in security policies, qualifies the Ukrainian actions of transferring its vessels through the Kerch Strait as “not illegal,” taking into consideration the previous agreements between Russia and Ukraine. Whereas the Russian actions “are a flagrant violation of the established agreements, Kremlin trying to set new game rules in the Black and Azov seas and maintaining the position that those are territorial waters under the Russian control,” says Vasiloi.

He considers that the main objectives of the Russian actions is to discourage assistance and support from the European institutions to Ukraine in the defence and security sector, to hinder the intention of joining NATO, as well as convincing the Ukrainian citizens about the weakness of the Navy Forces and promoting the propagandist messages in the context of future Ukrainian elections.

Rosian Vasiloi expresses his expectations concerning a tough reaction from the international community, as tolerating such actions from the Russian side “is way too much.”

“I expect that the Ukrainian authorities and the EU institutions would concentrate their forces for promoting policies and measures that would sanction a possible Russia’s aggression against its neighbouring state.”

The Republic of Moldova should align to these sanctions, considers Vasiloi. “The eventual war declaration from the Russian side is not a thing to be ignored. The risks for the Republic of Moldova are high, taking into consideration the presence of Russian troops on the Moldovan territory. Therefore, a clear reaction and concrete measures from Moldovan side regarding this subject is needed.”

Denis Cenușă, the associated expert at Expert-Grup, considers that the development of the Kerch Strait conflict “will largely depend on the international community’s response.” The actions and decisions of UN, NATO and EU international organizations, as well as the position of individual countries such as the US, Germany, France and the UK, will determine the Moscow’s further steps.

“Taking into account the previous reactions of the international community to Russian aggression (Crime annexation, military action in Donbass, civilian plane MH17 crash, etc.), there is a low probability that other measures than economic and individual sanctions can stop the Russian Federation,” says Cenușă. On the other hand, he mentions that such measures may be followed by reactions of the Russian Federation, including shortening natural gas supplies, reactivating the crisis in Syria, extending economic sanctions, or triggering hybrid activities in countries vulnerable to populist movements.

“The fact that for Putin’s regime the military agenda prevails over diplomacy and “soft power” confirms an alarming direction that the Russian Federation is taking by rejecting international law and bilateral agreements.” This shows that the reformist segments of the Russian society are incapable of sanctioning Putin’s authoritarian regime, whose foreign policy is wholly dominated by militaristic visions, according to Cenușă.

Regarding the conflicting information that appeared in the Russian and Ukrainian media, the expert notices that the Russian Federation is interested in exposing the events in a way it suits. “In the last two decades, the Russian crisis situations have always been misinterpreted by the pro-government press and Russian officials. Therefore, there are no reasons to trust the statements made in the Russian media this time.”

On the background of the information mismatch, one can see what the intentions of the Russian Federation are. First, Cenușă states that Russia uses military atrocities against Ukrainian ships to discredit Petr Poroshenko’s presidency in the context of the presidential election, in which Moscow relies on the candidacy of Yulia Tymoshenko. Second, Moscow wants to flood the national and international public space with the idea that the Azov Sea is treated as a Russian internal geographical area, although in reality this area belongs to Ukraine or it is shared with Ukraine. “So, we are witnessing a new act of legitimizing the illegal integration of Crimea into the Russian territory.” Third, a new trend of expanding the Russian aggression from the earth to the sea can be observed. If in the Donbass region, Moscow claimed that the problem is in the separatist forces, which it can somehow masquerade, then in the waters of the Azov Sea this trend comes to the foreground, regardless of the misinformation angle.

Concerning the possible influence of the conflict in the region, particularly for Moldova, Cenușă points out the opinion of the international military experts suggesting that Russia is capable of anything.

“In a way, we are faced with a security and geopolitical reality easily disputed by Moscow whenever it deems necessary and neglecting any existing diplomatic framework. This represents a reason to worry, as Moldova has Russian military forces stationed in the Transnistrian region, low military training, lack of any solid strategic vision, and a local political context fragile or tolerant of Russian interference.”

The conflict backgrounds

Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, an act that is not legally recognized by the international community, and a war with the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, these two countries have been locked in a continuous conflict. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been steadily escalating in recent months.

For example, last month, the conflict extended into the area of religion when the Ukrainian Orthodox Church officially broke free from Moscow’s control. Besides, Ukraine and the United States have been accusing Russia of interfering with international shipping in and out of the Kerch Strait for some months now.

Featured image source: CNN

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