Commander of the Ukrainian Navy's tugboat Yany Kapu Oleh Melnychuk, who was captured by Russian special services together with other 23 Ukrainian sailors near the Kerch Strait on November 25, has refused to testify, telling Russian investigators he is a prisoner of war.
"In his testimony, he indicated that under the Geneva Convention, he is a prisoner of war, he does not consider himself guilty and will not testify," his lawyer, Edem Semedliaev, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday evening.
Semedliaev met with Melnychuk on December 12. The lawyer said "investigative actions took place" earlier that day.
"Oleh cheers up his crew as best he can. He has also asked to thank everyone who helps the Ukrainian sailors," the lawyer said.
As UNIAN reported earlier, Commander of the Ukrainian Navy's tugboat Yany Kapu Oleh Melnychuk demanded a translator into Russian when the so-called "court" in Russian-occupied Crimea was selecting a preventive measure for him on November 28.
On 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 of the plans to re-deploy the vessels in advance in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation. The Russian coast guard ship "Don" rammed the Ukrainian tugboat, 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 members on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, being charged with "illegal border crossing" (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison). Three crewmen were wounded in the attack. Russian-controlled "courts" in occupied Crimea ruled that all 24 detainees should be remanded in custody, after which they were transferred to the Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina detention centers.