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KIEV, April 9. /TASS/. A Kiev court has ruled to arrest the Aliot ship for "violation of entering Crimea," the press service of Ukraine’s prosecutor office said on Thursday.
Investigators obtained "irrefutable evidence that the ship’s captain, citizen of Ukraine, committed a crime - organizing illegal transportation of individuals across the state border." The captain may face from 3 to 5 years in prison.
According to prosecutors, the ship, under the Moldovan flag, illegally visited the Kerch port in July 2014. In March 2015, the ship went for repairs to the Ismail shipyard.
The prosecutor’s office is currently investigating "the instances of violations by ships under national [Ukrainian] and foreign flags of entering Crimea’s ports with the aim of harming interests of the country."
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11. They held a referendum on March 16, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.
Ukraine refuses to recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.