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Russia’s handover of Ukrainian ships signals need to normalize relations — Crimea’s head

On Monday, Russia handed over the three Ukrainian ships to Kiev in the Black Sea

SIMFEROPOL, November 18. /TASS/. The handover of Ukrainian ships detained in November 2018 in the Kerch Strait back to Kiev signals the need to normalize Russian-Ukrainian relations, head of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov said on Monday on his VK page.

On Monday, Russia handed over the three Ukrainian ships to Kiev in the Black Sea.

"This is a clear signal to the Ukrainian government: it’s time that the destructive policy of the previous government, which, among other things, led to the provocation in the Kerch Strait, became a thing of the past. I hope those who receive this signal will make the right conclusions," Aksyonov wrote.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "the handover of three Ukrainian navy ships, which violated Russia’s border in a Kiev-staged provocation in the Kerch Strait and were detained by Russian law enforcement agencies, has taken place on November 18."

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian warships, en route from Odessa to Mariupol, illegally crossed Russia’s state border, entered Russia’s territorial waters in the Kerch Strait and started performing dangerous maneuvers. Despite the repeated warnings and demands to stop, the Ukrainian vessels continued their way, forcing Russia to use weapons. All three Ukrainian ships were detained in the Black Sea, along with 24 Ukrainian sailors.

On September 7, Moscow and Kiev carried out a "35 for 35" exchange of detainees, which included the 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait.

Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation is currently looking into the legitimacy of the former Ukrainian authorities’ decision to send three navy ships to the Kerch Strait.