A man walks in a commercial port of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov on August 14, 2018. (AFP Photo)
MOSCOW, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Russian inspections of ships sailing through the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait are legitimate as Russia has sovereignty in waters near the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
Russia resolutely rejects any accusations of its "aggressive and illegal actions" in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as Crimea is part of Russia, which can exercise its sovereign rights in nearby waters, the ministry said in a statement.
Ukraine accused Russia of "aggressive actions" in the Sea of Azov after Russia inaugurated a bridge over the Kerch Strait earlier this year and started carrying out inspections of commercial ships sailing through the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.
By the end of this year, Ukraine will establish a new maritime security department at the State Border Guard Service, which will take control over the entire maritime border of the country in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday.
Russia is seriously concerned about the continuing attempts by Ukraine to exacerbate the situation in the Sea of Azov, the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
The inspections of vessels carried out by Russian border guards are not discriminatory, said the ministry, adding that these measures are for security purposes instead of exerting political or economic pressure on Ukraine.
"Contrary to the statements of Kiev and Brussels, Russia does not increase its military presence in the Sea of Azov. The forces stationed there are mainly used to guard the Crimean Bridge," the statement said.
Crimea became part of Russia following a local referendum in March 2014, but Kiev and Western countries reject the results.
Russia-Ukraine relations have been filled with disputes and the United States has imposed rounds of sanctions against Russia over Crimea since then.