KIEV, December 9. /TASS/. Kiev and Moscow keep on negotiating the return of Ukrainian nationals, including Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait, with the Church being involved in such talks too, Archbishop Kliment, the head of the canonical Church’s information department told TASS on Sunday.
"The Ukrainian president asked Metropolitan [of Kiev and All Ukraine] Onufriy about that. As a matter of fact, the Church always takes part in the process of the return of our soldiers from the territories that are not controlled by Ukraine and from Russia. The metropolitan has applied with such requests to Patriarch [of Moscow and All Russia] Kirill more than once. The Church is conducting negotiations to have all Ukrainian national return to our territory by humanitarian means," he said, commenting on Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko’s statement that he asked the hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to help release Ukrainian sailors.
At the same time, Archbishop Kliment admitted that so far there are no results. "Work is underway and the problem has been worded. Patriarch Kirill is interested to see the results of the Church’s efforts. So, we expect such results," he said.
He recalled that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church had taken efforts to have Ukrainians return home, for instance, in the process of prisoner exchange in Donbass. "All the prisoners released in the past several years were released thanks to support from Metropolitan Onufriy and the Church’s direct participation," he stressed.
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s president asked Metropolitan Onufriy to help release Ukrainian sailors who had been detained in Russia for violating the state border.
In violation of the rules of passage via Russia’s territorial sea and the Kerch Strait, three warships of the Ukrainian Navy crossed Russia’s state border on November 25. 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 initiated on border violation charges.
The twenty-four Ukrainian nationals who were detained after the incident have been arrested till January 25. They face charges of illegal border crossing (part 3, article 322 of the Russian Criminal Code), which carry a punishment of up to six year in prison.