Kremlin comments on ITLOS decision to free Ukrainian sailors
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the Kremlin's position on the possibility of the release of 24 Ukrainian sailors will not change and they will remain in custody, despite the decision of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
"The position cannot change. The investigation should be completed in connection with the 'violation of the law on the border' and a trial should be held," he said, according to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti.
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.
On May 25, ITLOS obliged Russia to immediately release 24 Ukrainian sailors and three Ukrainian vessels captured near the Kerch Strait in November 2018.