Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg has condemned Russia's use of force against the Ukrainian ships and sailors near the Kerch Strait.
"Russia recently seized Ukrainian ships and sailors near the Kerch Strait. There is no justification for this use of force. We call for calm and restraint," he said at a press conference ahead of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
"Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships. It must also allow freedom of navigation. And unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian vessels, military as well as civilian, have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov," he said.
As UNIAN reported, three Ukrainian vessels were captured on November 25 by Russian forces at sea near the Kerch Strait, which is the only outlet to the Sea of Azov and controls access to two major Ukrainian ports. The two Ukrainian artillery boats and a tugboat were heading from Odesa on the Black Sea to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Twenty-four sailors were detained and "courts" in Russian-occupied Crimea ruled that they be detained for two months, pending trial.
On November 29, the sailors were transferred to Moscow, Russia.