Turkey has closed off the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to warships from any country, whether or not they border the Black Sea, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The strait closures will still allow warships through if they are returning to a home base in the Black Sea, according to reporting from Naval News. This would include Russian ships in the country’s Black Sea Fleet.
However, the decision to restrict warships, a power given to Turkey by the Montreux Convention of 1936, will likely limit Russia’s ability to move ships from its other fleets to the Black Sea.
According to Naval News, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters that even though Turkey is not considered a belligerent in this conflict, it has the ability to restrict passage of warships from warring states.
“If the warship is returning to its base in the Black Sea, the passage is not closed. We adhere to the Montreux rules. All governments, riparian and non-riparian, were warned not to send warships across the straits,” Çavuşoğlu said, according to Naval News.
The move by Turkey likely means that two of Russia’s Slava-class cruisers currently operating in the Mediterranean couldn’t enter the Black Sea. The two ships were operating in and around the Aegean Sea last week, with RTS Marshal Ustinov (055) south of Italy and RFS Varyag (011) off the coast of Syria, near Russia’s Tartus naval base, USNI News reported. Marshal Ustinov is from Russia’s Northern Fleet and Varyag is from its Pacific Fleet.
No country has tried to send warships through the Bosphorus or Dardanelles straits since Turkey issued its warning, Naval News reported.
Turkey’s denial of passage to warships comes a day after Çavuşoğlu told CNN Turk the Russian invasion into Ukraine is considered a war.
By declaring it a war, Turkey was able to use the rules of the Montreux Convention that allow it to restrict the passage of the straits, although the foreign minister did not cite which article allowed it to shut off access to warships.
The Montreaux Convention gives Turkey wide latitude to control the straits and includes specific restrictions – like tonnage limitations, notification for passage, and time limitations – for non-Black Sea states.
The move by Turkish officials is a “powerful, sensible, and bold” one, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Adm. James Stavridis told USNI News in an email.
Russia will still be able to sustain its Black Sea ships through shore resupply through Crimea, Stavridis said. However, it will prevent maritime reinforcements from coming into the Black Sea.
“It is also time for NATO, which will continue to have access of course, to send more of its ships into the Black Sea to support Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania, the NATO members whose fleets operate routinely there,” Stavridis said.
Russia has already used some of its amphibious ships to assist with its invasion into Ukraine, landing troops outside of Mariupol on Friday. Those troops then met up with more Russian troops and started toward the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, USNI News previously reported.
The troops were about 30 miles from the southeast of the city center of Mariupol, as of Sunday. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Monday that there was no new information about Russian maritime operations.
There are still ships in the Black Sea, Kirby said, and sea combat is available to the Russians.
Naval forces were also beginning to assemble in the Black Sea, south of Odesa, but they had not made any moves toward the port city, USNI News reported Sunday.
A Pentagon official said Monday that there was no additional movement toward Odesa from ships in the Black Sea.
Kirby referred any questions about the Black Sea straits to Turkey.