Russian lawyer of Ukrainian POW sailors Nikolay Polozov says it is "important for Russia to comply with the tribunal award, "otherwise there will be sanctions."

At the same time, Polozov said the Kremlin was attempting to portray the release of Ukrainian POW sailors as a gesture independent of the award of the International Tribunal, according to Obozrevatel.

"The Kremlin has specific rhetoric. It is extremely important for them to assert that the tribunal doesn't matter to them. So to make sure that this [release of sailors] does not look like a direct execution of the tribunal’s award, several more political prisoners were added and this was called it a 'big exchange'," the lawyer believes.

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He noted that Russia is pursuing a criminal case launched against 24 Ukrainian sailors who were illegally captured near the Kerch Strait in November 2018 and recently returned to Ukraine as part of an exchange of held persons.

"In Russia, they remain 'indicted'. The criminal investigation is ongoing. That is, they only changed the measure of restraint," said the sailors' lawyer.

Polozov recalled that the sailors had been released under personal recognizance of Ukrainian Ombudsperson Liudmyla Denisova.

"I hope that the Russian authorities will eventually lose interest in this case and possibly close it. But as long as it is out there, there is a threat that the sailors may be summoned for investigative actions, and if they don't report, they could be put on the international wanted list. This will allow the Russian authorities to hand down a verdict in absentia," he warned.

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According to the lawyer, the further fate of the case and the participation of sailors in the trial will be decided through negotiations.

"Also, through negotiations, the issues of transferring three warships should be resolved. Because now the order of the tribunal (the decision of the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) Russia has complied with only in one point," he stressed.

"In the criminal case, the boats remain as material evidence. In a note on June 25, the Russian Foreign Ministry indicated that they were ready to transfer the boats for temporary storage until the verdict is handed down. Therefore, we expect the negotiation process to continue and the boats to be returned," Polozov said.

As UNIAN reported earlier, on May 25, 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea made public its decision obliging Russia to release three Ukrainian vessels and 24 Ukrainian sailors captured near the Kerch Strait and allow them to return to Ukraine. However, the Tribunal failed to satisfy Ukraine's motion to oblige the Russian Federation to stop criminal prosecution of captured Ukrainians.