At a meeting of Ukrainian and Russian delegations in The Hague, the Russian side radically changed its tone on the subject of POW sailors and seized naval ships, according to Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for European Integration of Ukraine, Olena Zerkal.
"I was struck by the fundamental change in the tone – the transition from rudeness and gross disregard to the civilized language inherent in diplomacy," Zerkal wrote on Facebook.
"It is unclear whether this is a change in Russian tactics or simply a will to delay the consultation process. In any case, this did not affect the positions of the parties with respect to our sailors and ships," said Zerkal.
"The arguments that we heard from Russia today only confirmed our initial position that we are talking about the application of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which guarantees immunity to our warships and crew," she added.
"The exchange of views confirmed the existence of a legal dispute between the parties regarding the application of international law of the sea. This fact is the cornerstone for the judicial consideration of the dispute," the diplomat noted.
Also, she said the Ukrainian side hoped that soon the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea will confirm Ukraine's demands. In particular, the date of the hearings set to be held in Hamburg is to be announced soon (tentatively, it's May 6-7).
"Until that time, Russia has the opportunity to voluntarily release Ukrainian sailors and naval ships, and eliminate violations of international law," Zerkal emphasized.
"Whether Russia is able to continue to maintain the civilized tone and prove it with 'concrete deeds' will be seen from the documents we'll receive from Russia in preparation for the Hamburg hearings," she concluded.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on April 16, Ukraine initiated a new lawsuit against Russia and appealed to the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in order to ensure the release of 24 Ukrainian sailors and three vessels captured by Russian security forces in November 2018.
UNIAN memo. On the morning of November 25, 2018, 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. Moscow's Lefortovo district court in the middle of January 2019 decided to keep the Ukrainian sailors in remand until the end of April 2019.