KIEV, April 16. /TASS/. Ukraine is engaged in negotiations with NATO representatives to see that NATO ships guarantee the passage of Ukrainian ships through the Kerch Strait, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Alexander Turchinov, said on Tuesday.
"Yes, negotiations on the issue are underway," he said when asked by Ukrainian Segodnya edition about the possibility of establishing such practice. However, he declined to go into detail.
On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian naval ships left the port of Odessa heading into the Sea of Azov. While passing through the Kerch Strait, they violated the rules of passage for warships via Russia’s territorial waters from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov. In defiance of Russian border guards’ lawful demands to halt, the Ukrainian ships went on moving, thus forcing the Russian border guards to open gunfire in order to compel them to stop. The ships were detained and towed to the city of Kerch. The 24 Ukrainian sailors were arrested on charges of the illegal crossing of the Russian border. A criminal case was opened.
The incident triggered accusations against Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transportation has emphasized that all restrictions for the passage through the Kerch Strait come only when weather conditions impede navigation. Late in December 2018, President Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia was not against the passage of Ukrainian ships through the Kerch Strait, including naval ships. However, applications must be submitted to have marine pilots to guide the ships through the strait.