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Kiev should appreciate Russia’s return of detained sailors, ships as goodwill gesture

SIMFEROPOL, November 18. /TASS/. The Ukrainian authorities should appreciate Russia’s goodwill gesture to release the detained sailors and naval ships, Russia’s senator from Crimea, member of the Federation Council’s defense and security committee, Olga Kovitidi, told TASS on Monday.

Earlier in the day Russia returned to Ukraine three naval ships - the tug boat Jana Kapu and two small armored artillery boats The Nikopol and The Berdyansk. The procedure took place in the Black Sea.

"The return of naval ships, detained in response to a provocation a year ago, to Ukraine is a bright confirmation Russia remains open to a dialogue and is peacefully minded. The handover is certainly an act of goodwill by Russia. We demonstrated this goodwill very clearly. First, we let the sailors return home. Now we’ve released the ships. Hardly any other country would agree to do the same," Kovitidi said.

She recalled that Russia had kept in order both the ships released to Ukraine and those Kiev had abandoned in Crimea.

"We’ve not only maintained in order the released ships. We still maintain part of their fleet, abandoned in Crimea in appalling condition. For Russia, Ukraine’s appreciation of this gesture of goodwill would be far more important than the maintenance costs," Kovtidi said.

Kerch Strait provocation

On November 25, 2018 three Ukrainian naval ships violated the rules of navigation in Russia’s territorial waters on the way from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Military force had to be used to stop them. The ships were detained and the 24 crewmembers arrested and charged with state border violation.

On September 7, 2019 Russia and Ukraine exchanged groups of arrestees and convicts. Either country released 35 persons. The 24 Ukrainian sailors were allowed to leave for home in the swap.

Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation is probing into the legality of the former Ukrainian leadership’s decision to send the naval ships to the Kerch Strait.