Where is the Black Sea, how many countries surround it and what are the most important ports?
The Black Sea is strategically and economically important for Russia for its trade links with the rest of Europe via the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits.
The Black Sea is a large inland sea which spans 168,500 square miles - roughly, about the same size as California, situated between Europe and Asia. During the past few centuries, it has held a strategic and economic importance to Russia. For security reasons too, Russia relies on the Crimean port of Sevastopol and Novorossiysk - large, warm-water seaports with extensive cargo transloading facilities for maritime trade to the rest of the world ads well as for naval power - so that it can maintain control of the sea in the south. The Black Sea is vital for Russia as it provides transit routes to the Sea of Marmara, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean. As the world’s largest exporter of grains, it is via the warm-water ports of the Black Sea basin which Russia is able to ship its cargo anywhere in the world all year round. In 2020, the Russia Federation’s container port throughput was approximately 4,871, 919 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).
The Black Sea also has a vital strategic significance to Russia. With Russia occupying its northeast shores, it is bordered by six countries - Ukraine to the north, Georgia to the east, Turkey to the south and Bulgaria and Romania to the west. Three of those nations, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, are members of NATO and that is a bone of contention for the Kremlin. Moscow fears that a large part of mainland Russia is now within range (3,000–5,500 km) of US intermediate-range missiles. It also has economic assets in the region which it wants to protect.
Access to the Sea of Marmara, and subsequently the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean is through the strait of Istanbul which connects Asia with the rest of Europe. The Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits are controlled by Turkey and under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Ankara has the control to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to all foreign warships in times of conflict. Ukraine has requested Turkey to do so but Ankara says it is powerless since Turkey is not at war and a clause in the Montreux Pact impedes them from refusing right of passage to vessels returning to port.
One of the largest sea harbors in the Krasnodar Territory is Novorossiysk, a deep-water, ice-free port situated on the northeast coast of the Azov-Black Sea basin. Twinned with UK port Plymouth, its container terminal opened in 1999 and processed almost 143 million metric tons of cargo in 2021 - an annual throughput of three million metric meters. Novorossiysk is the fourth busiest port in Europe and handles a wide range of cargo including crude oil, grains, timber, non-ferrous metals (zinc, lead, tin, aluminum, and copper), metal goods (plate iron, rolled iron, steel reinforcement and pipes) plus general cargo and wine materials. The harbour boasts 11 berths totalling with a berthing line stretching 8.3 km - the longest of all of Russia’s ports.