Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko predicts that the Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia in November 2018 could be freed before Election Day when Ukraine is to elect a new parliament on July 21.
"I have information that it is a 90% probability that our captive sailors could be released before Election Day, July 21. I pray it happens so," he said on TV Channel Ukraina on July 14, according to the Ukrayinska Pravda online newspaper.
"I don't care who will pull the blanket, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will make – in connection with the electoral processes – accountable or positive ... I want very much our heroes to return home," Poroshenko 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 hold the Ukrainian sailors on remand until the end of April 2019. In April, their detention was extended until the end of August 2019.
The Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) said in May that Moscow should release the sailors before June 25, 2019. The Kremlin rebuffed the call.
The other day Russia brought final accusations against all the 24 sailors.