NATO calls on Russia to free Ukrainian sailors without delay
NATO has called on Russia to immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized near the Kerch Strait on November 25.
"There is no justification for Russia's use of military force against Ukrainian ships and naval personnel. We call on Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized, without delay. We call for calm and restraint," NATO said in a statement on November 27.
"In view of Russia's use of military force against Ukraine near the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, NATO Allies call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports and allow freedom of navigation," NATO said.
NATO reiterates its full support to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and territorial waters. "We strongly condemn Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise. Russia's construction and partial opening of the Kerch Strait bridge represents another violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said.
NATO says it stands with Ukraine, and will continue to provide political and practical support to the country within the framework of our established cooperation. "NATO will continue to monitor the situation," the statement said.
As UNIAN reported, three Ukrainian vessels were captured on November 25 by Russian forces at sea near the Kerch Strait, which is the only outlet to the Sea of Azov and controls access to two major Ukrainian ports. The two Ukrainian artillery boats and a tugboat were heading from Odesa on the Black Sea to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Twenty-four sailors have been detained.