By prolonging the Ukrainian POW sailors' term of remand, as well as by simplifying the granting of Russian passports to residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russia attempts to put pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for July 21, according to Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations.

The sailors' detention was illegal from the very start, and they should have been released immediately, Voice of America's Ukrainian service reported citing Volker.

In a report delivered in Ukrainian, VOA quoted Volker as saying that the sailors had been attacked in international waters.

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Volker is convinced that President Putin and Russia are using sailors and the issue of Russian passports to create pressure on Zelensky and hinder his electoral prospects.

The envoy expressed doubt that such a step would work as Ukrainians, he believes, have their own opinion regarding their choice.

As UNIAN reported, on July 17, the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow extended the term of remand for all 24 Ukrainian POW sailors.