"Mariupol is, I think, a nightmare situation because the terrorists they [are] just damaging everything there, so it may be the most awful thing we have ever seen for the last, maybe, decade of any port place in the world...nowadays it's a huge disaster for civilians and for the people who are there, for everybody."
Working with law firm partner and board member of the Ukrainian Maritime Bar Association, Evgeniy Sukachev of Black Sea Law Co, as well as other maritime stakeholders in-country underscores the continuing need to provide accurate front-end reporting and ground truth fact collation during the period of the invasion by Russian forces in Ukraine, as well as post-conflict reconstruction in due course. The collation of evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses towards all members of the maritime community, alongside wider evidence collation, is part of Human Rights at Sea's mandate.
In an extended interview this morning between our NGO and Evgeniy, key points were discussed, which are noteworthy of coverage for the International community's awareness. In the Odesa ports, "the situation in Odesa is still the same so there is no developments in [terms of] the blockade of the ports and if we will be cut off soon".
Maritime corridors and vessel safe passage
"Yesterday, we had a notice from the Russian Federation navy forces that they possibly make a corridor for foreign vessels, or the vessels under the foreign flags, however this information has not been confirmed yet and very likely it could be complicated to leave the Ports right now, because I think the navy forces of the [terrorist] country they made made some mine fields somewhere in the northern part of the Black Sea and all vessels should be very careful in regards that we can't rely on the words of the country which always lies."
In terms of safe passage out of Odesa ports, Evgeniy stated: "Before any passing or leaving of the port, there should be very deep discovery..of counter-mining..these ways should be very well-prepared not to get any more damaged vessels or damaged by the mine and to save first of all the lives of seafarers in these vessels who could make a decision to leave Ukrainian ports"
"All this information and all these corridors should be checked by the special forces to make them safe for commercial shipping".
Seafarer and vessel situation
Evgeniy could not corroborate the numbers of vessels or numbers of seafarers asserted in open-source reporting in the international maritime press, "however, as we know there are about 100 vessels under foreign flags which have been blocked by the navy forces of the Russian Federations since 24 February 2022.." and "...almost all the crews have been already changed from these vessels...the ship owners, the managers found the possibility to deal with local manning agencies and Ukrainian seafarers who are able to change their foreign seafarers in these vessels and get onboard and make the stability of the vessels in the normal conditions...to be technically prepared and be on standby."
In terms of the welfare situation for seafarers in Odesa, "Everybody will be supported here and all vessels will be supplied...several exemptions are the ports of Kherson, Berdyanskor Mauripol, but these are extraordinary conditions."
"It's a quite complicated situation is in Kherson port, because Kherson has been occupied with Russian forces..and the most complicated situation is Maruipol and the port of Berdyansk. Mariupol is, I think, a nightmare situation because the terrorists they [are] just damaging everything there, so it may be the most awful thing we have ever seen for the last, maybe, decade of any port place in the world...nowadays it's a huge disaster for civilians and for the people who are there, for everybody."
In terms of the situations being reported in other ports, Evgeniy has reporting coming from there too.
"Our ports infrastructure should be saved...this is what we have to save and what we have to protect."
Attack on flag States
The issue of the widening conflict by the Russian Federation is seen as an attack on other states through the attack on the flag states.
"All these vessels are territories of foreign countries, so they are flying under not Ukrainian flags, but territories of other countries not involved in this war...I think this a huge international conflict, I think that if the navy forces or the army [of Russia] will make an effort for [attacking] these vessels, these countries should make some notice on the international law backstage [behind the scenes] with the relevant notices to the country which is escalating this conflict more and more..." "If [they attack] the foreign international citizens [there] is already [a] conflict of the Russian Federation with the countries who the seafarers are citizens of."
"The seafarers are a big part of our community and Ukraine is a famous navy nation, and we of course will try to support not just the seafarers but their families as well who are now here, and when the seafarers are out on the ocean the families are waiting for them here. We also have to support ourselves, our culture, our human beings, the schools, the museums, people who can't support themselves...all things are connected."
Human Rights at Sea continues to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine and is working with multiple stakeholders, lawyers, welfare organisations and international organisations in collating evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses affecting those within the maritime supply chain.