Both states have the right to use it. Yet Russia is setting up obstacles to shipping on the sea. What if a situation similar to that in Crimea is threatening this region? Oleksandr Oliynyk, director of the port of Mariupol, is convinced that ‘Russia wants to destabilize our region and is exerting economic pressure to acquire what it failed to get in 2014.’ The economy of Mariupol has been suffering since the start of the war in Eastern Ukraine. The amount of cargo handled by the port has plummeted. Difficulties for ports in eastern Ukrainian were exacerbated after the opening of the Kerch bridge, connecting the annexed Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland. Freight ships with a height of more than 33 meters cannot pass under the bridge, and can no longer reach eastern Ukraine.
Russian border controls and the coastguard body of the FSB, the domestic Russian secret service, make matters worse, costing money and days of waiting for the ship owners. Fewer and fewer shipping firms are willing to call at eastern Ukrainian ports. ‘Of course we’re worried about losing our jobs’ says Artjom, a docker who has been working a reduced four-day week for some time. His colleague Sergej, at the neighboring shipyard, has had his hours cut since the beginning of this year. Everyone here is feeling Russia’s increasing pressure and dominance. Many are afraid that the war could also soon reach Mariupol.
The documentary accompanies people in Mariupol and Berdjansk through their daily lives, just a stone’s throw from the front line. Their livelihoods are inextricably linked with the Sea of Asov, and they are at risk of becoming embroiled in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.