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Kiev dodges substantive dialogue on Kerch Strait incident, says Moscow

MOSCOW, April 24. /TASS/. Kiev is evading a detailed discussion on the Kerch Strait incident involving three Ukrainian warships in November 2018, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the April 23 bilateral consultations in The Hague on this issue.

"Although the Russian side confirmed its readiness to hold further consultations, the Ukrainian delegation said it was not interested in them," the ministry said. "So, the Ukrainian side is evading a substantive discussion on the situation arising from illegal steps of Ukrainian vessels upon the instruction of the country’s leadership and continues using it for propaganda goals."

"Once again we note that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has no jurisdiction to consider Ukraine’s lawsuit," the ministry said. "We are calling on the Ukrainian side to act conscientiously in the interests of settling the problem, which emerged at its fault."

The Hague consultations

On April 23, The Hague hosted Russian-Ukrainian consultations on the incident in the Kerch Strait involving three Ukrainian warships. On November 25, 2018 the Ukrainian vessels violated the rules of passage through Russia's territorial waters while en route from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea.

The Russian side had to use weapons to compel the ships to stop. Three Ukrainian servicemen were lightly wounded. They received medical assistance. The ships were detained and escorted to the port of Kerch. A criminal case was launched on border violation charges. Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors were arrested and taken to a Moscow pre-trial detention center. They have been charged with illegally crossing Russia’s state border, and face up to six years in jail if found guilty.

Moscow insists that the Ukrainian vessels’ steps, including their stubborn reluctance to obey numerous persistent calls to leave Russia’s territorial waters and other legal demands, were a deliberate provocation. This resulted in the detention of Ukrainian servicemen and vessels, and Ukraine appealed to the international tribunal seeking the release of Ukrainian sailors.

During the consultations, Moscow drew Ukraine’s attention to the rules and norms of the Russian legislation and international law, which the Ukrainian warships violated during their stay in Russia’s international waters and when they attempted to enter the Kerch Strait.

"We noted that the procedure envisaged by the Russian legislation to obtain access for passage through the Kerch Strait is almost completely identical to the one that existed at the time when the passage through the strait was regulated by the Ukrainian authorities," the ministry noted. "We informed the Ukrainian side in detail about the conditions of detention and the observance of their procedural rights."

Unfortunately, Ukraine left unanswered Russia’s question if it was ready to comply with the provisions of certain laws and rules regulating navigation in Russia’s territorial sea and the Kerch Strait in order to avoid such incidents in the future.