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The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has obliged Russia to immediately release 24 Ukrainian sailors and three Ukrainian vessels captured near the Kerch Strait in November 2018.

President of the Tribunal Jin-Hyun Paik read out the award in Hamburg (Germany) on May 25.

Russia refuses to attend the ITLOS hearing on Ukrainian sailors.

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Thus, the UN Tribunal partially satisfied Ukraine's motion to apply temporary measures against Russia for violating the immunity of three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crew members.

In particular, the ITLOS ordered Russia to immediately release the Ukrainian vessels, namely the tugboat "Yany Kapu" and two armored naval boats "Berdyansk" and "Nikopol," and return them to Ukraine.

"Having examined the measures requested by Ukraine, the Tribunal considers it appropriate under the circumstances of the present case to prescribe provisional measures requiring the Russian Federation to release the three Ukrainian naval vessels and the 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and to allow them to return to Ukraine in order to preserve the rights claimed by Ukraine," Jin-Hyun Paik said.

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At the same time, he added that "the Tribunal does not consider it necessary to require the Russian Federation to suspend criminal proceedings against the 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and refrain from initiating new proceedings."

"However, the Tribunal considers it appropriate to order both Parties to refrain from taking any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute submitted to the Annex VII arbitral tribunal," 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.