Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has said the return of three naval boats to Ukraine is unrelated to a ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Read alsoRussia to return seized naval boats to Ukraine on Nov 18

"It has nothing to do with the International Tribunal. This is the first. There is no connection here and cannot be. As for the transfer of the ships, you know these ships violated the state border of the Russian Federation, so our border guards, the FSB deal with this. Therefore, you need to ask them to comment," Peskov told journalists, asked by an UNIAN correspondent in Russia whether the return of the boats to Ukraine is connected with Russia's fulfillment of the ITLOS decision.

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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. All 24 crew members on board were captured and charged with "illegal border crossing" under Part 3 of Article 322 of the Criminal Code of Russia (imprisonment for up to six years). Later the Ukrainian sailors were freed and returned to Ukraine in a major prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia on September 7, 2019.

The ITLOS on May 25 ordered Russia to immediately release the three vessels and return them under Ukrainian control. Russia refused to comply with the order.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said on October 11 that "there is interaction" between Russia and Ukraine and the process of returning the ships captured by Russia was "at the final stage."

On November 17, Russia began moving the Ukrainian naval boats from the Genmola water area in Russian-occupied Kerch before their possible handover to Ukraine.

The vessels are now on their way to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa.