Poroshenko: Ukraine to defend its right to free passage through Kerch Strait

11:40, 05 February 2019
Ukraine
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Photo from UNIAN

Answering the question during a Svoboda Slova [Freedom of Speech] panel show on Ukraine's ICTV channel on when Crimeans will see the Ukrainian flags in the Kerch Strait for the third time, that is, when the "Ukrainian convoy" will appear there, he said: "I will not tell you when, because it will be only volunteers who will go there. I don't rule out that there will be journalists and OSCE experts there, and (First Vice Speaker) Iryna Gerashchenko, who's been begging to join. We will definitely go there, we will definitely defend the freedom of navigation, and the truth is with us."

Poroshenko said Ukraine would never recognize the fact of the occupation of the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.

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"We will demand 100% free use in accordance with bilateral agreements, in accordance with the UN Convention," the president said.

UNIAN memo. 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 of the plans to re-deploy the vessels in advance in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation.

The Russian coast guard ship "Don" rammed the Ukrainian tugboat, 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.

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All 24 crew members on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, being charged with "illegal border crossing" (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison). Three crewmen were wounded in the attack.

Russian-controlled "courts" in occupied Crimea ruled that all 24 detainees should be remanded in custody, after which they were transferred to the Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina detention centers. Moscow's Lefortovo district court in the middle of January 2019, ruled to keep the Ukrainian sailors in remand until the end of April 2019.

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