Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Yenin says Ukraine has a strong position regarding Russia's violation of the principles of international maritime law in the case of the capture of Ukrainian sailors and ships in the Kerch Strait, which occurred in November 2018.
"Yesterday, the arbitral tribunal considering the case of Ukraine against Russia on the detention of three naval vessels and crew announced its decision on the further course of its consideration. The case will be considered in two stages: first, the Arbitration Tribunal will consider the preliminary objections of the Russian Federation, so called 'jurisdiction,' and then move on to consider the case on its merits. Ukraine must now provide its written position on these preliminary objections, after which the Arbitral Tribunal will decide whether to give the sides another round to exchange written positions, or schedule oral hearings," he wrote on Facebook.
Yenin added such a course of consideration of interstate cases by international judicial institutions is an established practice.
Read alsoUkraine's Foreign Ministry: Russia not to escape responsibility for Kerch incident"We have walked this path in our other claims against Russia. Let me remind you of the case in the International Court of Justice on the application and interpretation of two International Conventions, just one year ago, on November 8, 2019. The court handed down its decision and, with an unprecedented number of votes, rejected absolutely all jurisdictional objections of the Russian Federation... Our other case is about the rights of the coastal state in the Black and Azov Seas and in the Kerch Strait – the Arbitration Court rejected five out of six jurisdictional objections of the Russian Federation," the official said.
In this regard, Yenin added that both cases are moving on to consider the merits. "Russia must now respond in the language of facts to the numerous evidence provided by Ukraine," the diplomat said.
Separately, he recalled that in the case of the seizure of the Ukrainian naval boats and arrest of crew, when last year the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea considered Ukraine's request for the application of interim measures, Russia also cited similar grounds, claiming that the International Tribunal has no jurisdiction over Ukraine's motion.
"What do we have as a result? The International Tribunal, by 19 votes to one, recognized that it could consider Ukraine's claim and issued an order obliging the Russian Federation to return Nikopol and Berdyansk [armored naval boats], Yany Kapu [a tugboat] and 24 members of their crews under Ukrainian control. I'd like to express my confidence in Ukraine's position on this case. International law, facts, and evidence show that Russia has brazenly violated the fundamental principle of international maritime law – the absolute immunity of warships, by capturing our boats and our men. The Russian Federation will bear full responsibility for these violations!" Yenin added.
Read alsoUkraine intercepts radio comms of Russian coast guards with Command amid attack on Ukraine Navy boats (Transcript)Kerch Strait attack in 2018: Background
On the morning of November 25, 2018, Russia, using a tanker they claimed had "ran aground," blocked the passage in the Kerch Strait for Ukraine's Yany Kapu tugboat, as well as Berdyansk and Nikopol armored artillery boats. The vessels were on a scheduled redeployment from the port of Odesa in the Black Sea to the port of Mariupol in the Sea of Azov.
According to Ukraine's Navy, the Russian side had been informed about transfer plans in advance in accordance with international rules. However, Russia's Don coast guard ship rammed the Ukrainian tug contrary to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.
Subsequently, during the passage of the ships from the waiting area to the permanently-based point, somewhere at a distance of 13-14 miles from the coast of Crimea and about 40 km southeast of Kerch, the Ukrainian ships, which were accompanied by Russian vessels, were fired upon and blocked. Three Ukrainian seamen were wounded and three were injured.
Russia captured all 24 crew members and seized the boats, alleging violation of the state border in the area it claims belongs to the Russian Federation following the internationally-unrecognized Crimea grab of 2014.
On May 25, 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea obliged Russia to immediately return the crew and the vessels to Ukraine. Russia ignored the judgment.
The servicemen were only released on September 7, 2019, in a prisoner swap effort between Ukraine and Russia, while later, the boats were also returned to Ukraine in November 2019.
On May 22, 2020, Ukraine submitted a memorandum to the UN International Tribunal along with evidence in the case against the Russian Federation on the seizure of the sailors and the ships in the Kerch Strait in November 2018.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is awaiting that a decision in the case against the Russian Federation on an act of aggression in the Kerch Strait will be made in 2022-2023
On November 12, 2020, the arbitration in The Hague gave Ukraine three months to provide comments on the objections of the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait case.