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Court to decide the fate of arrested Ukrainian sailors, says Kremlin

Vladimir Zelensky, who has won the Ukrainian presidential election, said earlier that he saw the return of the detained seamen as the priority task

MOSCOW, April 22. /TASS/. The fate of the Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait last November must be decided in a court decision, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday in reply to the question whether the sailors could be released.

"Certain legal procedures exist. Now, they [the Ukrainian sailors] are under investigation for violating the state border. Any investigation ends in court, there must be a court decision," the spokesman said.

Vladimir Zelensky, who has won the Ukrainian presidential election, said earlier that he saw the return of the detained seamen as the priority task.

Last week, Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court extended for another three months the arrest of the Ukrainian sailors. "The Lefortovo District Court of Moscow has ruled to extend the arrest of 24 defendants by three months, until July 24, 2019," a court official said. The time limit of the investigation is until August 25.

Kerch Strait incident

On November 25, three Ukrainian navy ships violated the regime of Russian territorial waters for navy ships when moving from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea. In order to force them to stop in the Strait of Kerch, weapons were fired. The ships were detained and transferred to the town of Kerch. Later, the court arrested 24 Ukrainian sailors. They are currently held in a pretrial detention center in Moscow and charged with illegal crossing of the Russian border.

The ships’ crew members - 24 Ukrainian nationals are charged with violating the Russian border under Article 322.3 of the Russian Criminal Code. If found guilty, they may face up to six years in prison.