Russia not to release captured Ukrainian sailors until verdict handed down – Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian coast guards near the Kerch Strait will remain in custody in Russia at least until the completion of trial.
Speaking with journalists after the OSCE ministerial meeting on Friday, Lavrov confirmed that the Ukrainian consuls had been allowed access to the prisoners, and assured that the sailors "are well," European Pravda reports.
"They are now under investigation. When the investigation is over, there will be a trial. They violated Russian and international law, 'penetrated' our territorial waters. When there is a court ruling, then we will decide," Lavrov said, stating Russia's position on the matter.
The Russian minister believes that in this situation, “any country” would have seized Ukrainian naval vessels.
"The United States even ordered to shoot at anyone crossing the border. We didn't do that," he said.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on the morning of November 25, Russia blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait for the Ukrainian tugboat Yany Kapu and two armored naval boats Berdyansk and Nikopol, which were on a scheduled re-deployment from the Black Sea port of Odesa to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol.
The Ukraine Navy Command noted that the Russian side had been informed in advance of the intention to re-deploy the vessels in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation.
The Russian coast guard ship "Don" rammed the Ukrainian tug, damaging the Ukrainian vessel. As the Ukrainian boats were heading back in the Odesa direction after being rejected passage via the Kerch Strait, Russian coast guards opened aimed fire on them.
All 24 crew on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, charged with "illegal border crossing" (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison).
Three crewmen were injured in the attack.
The Russian-controlled “court” in the occupied Crimea ruled to remand all 24 POWs in custody, after which they were transferred to Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina detention centers.