Ukrainian Navy Commander, Admiral Ihor Voronchenko says he is ready to go to Russian prison if Vladimir Putin releases 24 Ukrainian POWs captured by Russian coast guards Nov 25.
“My heart is breaking apart when I see my soldiers illegally held in Russia,” Voronchenko told Bild, DW reports.
At the same time, the Admiral does not believe that NATO warships could help the country in the Sea of Azov.
“There is an agreement of 2003, according to which any military vessel needs permission from both Ukraine and Russia to enter the Sea of Azov. This means that even if Ukraine wanted them to come, Russia would not allow this,” stressed Voronchenko.
At the same time, the Commander called on NATO to increase presence in the Black Sea.
Earlier, at a maritime security conference, Admiral Voronchenko said that Ukraine would request that the Turkish authorities close down the Bosphorus Strait for Russian ships over Russia's aggression in the Black and Azov seas.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on the morning of November 25, 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.
The Ukraine Navy Command noted that the Russian side had been informed in advance of the intention to re-deploy the vessels in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation. The Russian coast guard ship "Don" rammed the Ukrainian tug, damaging the Ukrainian vessel. As the Ukrainian boats were heading back in the Odesa direction after being rejected passage via the Kerch Strait, Russian coast guards opened aimed fire on them.
All 24 crew on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, charged with "illegal border crossing" (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison). Three crewmen were injured in the attack.
The Russian-controlled “court” in the occupied Crimea ruled to remand all 24 POWs in custody, after which they were transferred to Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Silence detention centers.