Seafarers Step Up to Support Ukraine

samir madani
Samir Madani / TankerTrackers

Published Feb 27, 2022 2:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Four days into a full-scale invasion by one of the largest armies in the world, the Ukrainian armed forces have managed to hold all major cities and the Russian offensive has lost momentum, according to UK intelligence. Russia's tanks, armored personnel carriers and truck convoys have proven vulnerable to attack by NATO-supplied anti-tank missiles, and some frontline Russian units have reportedly encountered shortages of fuel and supplies. 

In Ukraine and abroad, ordinary citizens are joining the fight. In Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and in dozens of towns behind the Russian advance, citizens' militias are supporting the civil defense, and hundreds of foreign citizens have signed up to join the Ukrainian armed forces - including American and British nationals. UK foreign secretary Liz Truss announced Sunday that she would support UK citizens who make the independent decision to travel to Ukraine to fight the Russian Army

"I do support that, and of course that is something that people can make their own decisions about," Truss told the BBC. "The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy not just for Ukraine, but for whole of Europe because that's what President Putin is challenging."

Many seafarers are joining the war effort in their own way: by expressing solidarity, calling on owners to support Ukraine, and refusing to call at Russian ports. 

In a recent video appeal, Capt. Luchyno Alexey Olegovich, a Ukrainian master, noted that officers from his nation have served the international fleet with professionalism for decades - and he called for shipowners to give back in this time of need.

"While we continue our work [at sea], our families are being attacked. Our children are hiding in basements. We receive letters of support from our shipowners, but I think that this is categorically not enough," he said. "I request you all to help my state financially. Create funds to help restore Ukraine, funds to support the army."

Capt. Olegovich said that after his ship reaches its destination port, it is due to load a cargo at a Russian port. He has refused to take the ship to Russia.

"There are two options: either they will change me, or the charterer will not go to the Russian port," he said. "This is a personal matter for everyone, gentlemen, but I believe in your common sense."

Commercial transactions with Russian entities are likely to become much more challenging once banks open Monday. Sanctions on Russia's central bank will prevent the country's government from using its storehouse of $630 billion in reserves, and most (but not all) of its commercial banks will be disconnected from the SWIFT financial transfer messaging system. Full-scale sanctions on banking can have a devastating impact on a national economy, as seen in Iran since 2018, and the measure is intended to give Russian President Vladimir Putin an additional incentive to call a halt to the invasion.