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Russia's border changes in the Baltic Sea spark international tensions

22.05.2024 13:30
The Russian government has announced plans to unilaterally alter its maritime borders in the Baltic Sea, affecting the boundaries with Finland and Lithuania.
Finnish Leopard 2 tanks cross the border between Finland and Norway.
Finnish Leopard 2 tanks cross the border between Finland and Norway. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB

The decision, made without consultation with the respective Finnish and Lithuanian authorities, has prompted immediate calls from Helsinki for Moscow to adhere to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Kremlin's proposed border adjustments will impact the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland and areas near Baltiysk and Zelenogradsk in the Kaliningrad region. The changes, presented by the Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday, aim to include several islands near the Finnish coast and areas around the Vistula and Curonian Spits.

According to Radio Svoboda, the Russian government claims the current border, established in 1985, "does not fully correspond to current geographical conditions."

There is no clarity on whether these adjustments will increase or decrease Russia's territorial waters in the Baltic Sea.

The announcement coincided with Russia's tactical nuclear weapons exercises in its Southern Military District, a move perceived by many as a show of strength. Opposition journalists in Russia have noted the timing of these territorial claims aligns with these military maneuvers, which the Kremlin describes as a response to "provocative statements and threats by representatives of Western countries."

Media reported that Lithuania has swiftly condemned Russia's actions. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry issued a statement labeling the move as an aggressive provocation, threatening the security of neighboring countries and Europe at large.

The ministry has summoned the Russian representative to provide a full explanation and is coordinating its response with international partners. "Lithuania calls on Russia to respect and abide by universally recognized principles and norms of international law, as well as international and bilateral agreements on the inviolability of borders," the statement read.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis emphasized the severity of the situation on social media, describing it as a "Russian hybrid operation" aimed at sowing fear and uncertainty. He called for a firm response from NATO and the EU to this escalation.

Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen also called on Russia to adhere to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, adopted in 1982 and in force since 1994. "We assume that Russia, as a party to the convention, is acting in accordance with it," Valtonen stated, urging respect for the established maritime boundaries and international agreements.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines a state's territorial waters, including internal waters such as ports, the territorial sea extending 12 nautical miles from the baseline, and archipelagic waters typically delimited by island states.


Source: IAR,PAP, Reuters, RMF24