The 2003 agreement provides for the right to conduct random inspections, but this should never lead to a general inspection regime or a single country. In addition, ships departing from or to Russian ports or Rostov-on-Don will not be stopped. Delays result in significant financial costs. Turkish ships are particularly suffering, but also Romanian and Bulgarian vessels and many other EU-flagged vessels are experiencing long and costly delays. Russia`s objective is to postpone its international activities in the long term. He cites the fact that, under the 2003 treaty with Russia, Ukrainian ships have free access to the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Road, which effectively makes these waters a common territory. Regarding the incident in the Kerch Strait in 2018, Sergei Lavrov told a press conference in Rome that the agreement provided for free navigation, given that the Sea of Azov is the common sea, but that both sides have the right to be inspected, which has been done in the past without complaining.  The fact is that 24 sailors and 3 ships remain in Russia`s custody, in violation of the agreement.  The status of the sea is governed by several agreements and life-sustaining rights. In 2003, Ukraine and Russia decided to treat Azov as the “historic inland waters” of Ukraine and Russia and leave the waters unseedable.
Some Ukrainian nationalists are now calling for Ukraine to reject the 2003 agreement and claim the coastal waters of Azov of 12 nautical miles under international maritime law. But this could cede most of the sea to Russia and leave Ukraine without access through the strait, as it is unlikely to be able to impose a 12-mile claim off Crimea. In 2016, Ukraine also launched a general case of UNCLOS (the law of buckets) against Russia, claiming that Russia interfered in “Ukraine`s rights as a coastal state in dense regions, next to Crimea, in the Black Sea, in the Sea of Azov and in the Kerch Strait.” In Ukraine, there have been calls to tear them apart. But Oleh Slobodyan, chief spokesman for Ukraine`s border protection service, ruled out any changes to the agreement and said such a move would only work if Russia wanted to implement the changes. “Ukraine and the Russian Federation, two historically fraternal nations, define the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as economically important to both countries,” the agreement states. Under a 2003 treaty, Russia has the right to inspect any ship that departs or heads for the Sea of Azov. Ukraine has accused Russia of abusing this right. And despite the current conflict between Kiev and Moscow, the agreement is still in force. Actions on the ground appear to have rendered the 2003 agreement virtually obsolete, but western diplomatic protest has so far been minimal, despite the serious strategic nature and intent behind the Russian operation in Azov and the growing number of ships carrying Western flags affected. The rapid deployment of a United Nations Mission for Peace in the Sea mission would defuse the situation and maintain the freedom of movement of maritime transport in the region and avoid further escalation.
“As a result, the Russian Federation has confirmed through its measures that bilateral agreements on the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov are null and void. We understand that Russia never intended to follow them,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told 112 Ukrayina TV. Poliakov said that while Russia`s actions are “provocative” because of a controversial 2003 agreement on cooperation and sharing of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, “everything Russia does here is technically legal.” The agreement, signed in 2003 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Ukrainian President Leonid Kusma, jointly controls the Azov region and allows both countries to exploit it freely.