NATO calls on Russia to withdraw from Crimea and cease its support to militants in eastern Ukraine.
"And just to be clear this Alliance does not, and will not, accept Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and we continue to call on Russia to withdraw from Crimea, and cease its support to militants in eastern Ukraine," Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said at the 181st Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session on May 22.
"We also call on Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships seized in November last year near the Sea of Azov," he said.
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.
In April, their detention was extended until the end of August 2019.