Russian FSB security operatives, in order to obtain guilty pleas from Ukrainian fishermen over their alleged violations of fishing rules in the Sea of Azov, resort to threats to charge the crew with sabotage and espionage against Russia punishable by 20 years in prison, the Security Service of Ukraine reported.

These actions constitute gross violations of international law, the SBU stresses.

"The Russian intelligence service illegally detains Ukrainian citizens, and then through threats and blackmail, obtains false testimonies about the alleged illegal fish. In particular, in 2018, representatives of the coast guard of the FSB of the Russian Federation illegally detained two Ukrainians who were sailing in a fishing vessel in the waters of the Sea of ​​Azov near Berdiansk," the SBU informs.

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It is reported that, despite the lack of grounds for detention, since during the inspection of the Ukrainian vessel no fishing equipment, fish or objects banned from free circulation were found, Ukrainian citizens were forcibly taken to the city of Yeysk, Krasnodar Territory.

Subsequently, without no lawyers or consuls present, FSB operatives interrogated the illegally detained Ukrainians and demanded that they plead guilty of illegal fishing.

As Ukrainians refused to falsely accuse themselves, Russian security agents resorted to threats to charge them with sabotage and espionage, which provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years.

The FSB bluntly told Ukrainians that an additional search of their boat could "reveal" weapons, explosives, or drugs, the SBU states.

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It is noted that, facing a real threat of a long prison term, Ukrainian nationals were forced to give false testimonies. Indicted and then sentenced for "illegal fishing", Ukrainians did their prison term, after which a fine was imposed on them and the boat was seized along with other personal property.

"The Security Service of Ukraine notes that such activities of the Russian special services constitute a violation of international law and is systemic in nature. It is accompanied by information campaigns in the Russian media, which should undermine the image of Ukraine in the face of the international community," the SBU said.