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Russia to assess German initiatives concerning Kerch Strait

Russian top diplomat Sergey Lavrov noted that Moscow did not believe it was appropriate to include Ukraine in any group discussing the Kerch Strait situation

MOSCOW, January 18. /TASS/. Moscow will assess Berlin’s initiatives concerning the Kerch Strait that German top diplomat Heiko Maas presented, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference following talks with his German counterpart.

"We have just received the document, I saw it for the first time during the talks," he said. "I will not go into detail, first we need to assess it," Lavrov added.

The Russian top diplomat noted that Moscow did not believe it was appropriate to include Ukraine in any group discussing the Kerch Strait situation. "German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow German experts to visit the region to see how the passage was carried out and Putin agreed," Lavrov noted. "A month has passed but no one has arrived, and today Mr Maas handed a proposal over to me that presents a document concerning the visit, which should be agreed on with Ukraine. We believe that if the idea is to put the situation into a political procedure and allow Ukraine to make decisions then we risk finding ourselves in a situation similar to that of the Normandy Quartet."

Kerch Strait incident

On November 25, three Ukrainian navy ships illegally crossed Russia’s border and tried to carry out some illegal actions in Russian territorial waters later in the day. They ignored legitimate demands to stop issued by vessels belonging to the FSB Border Service and the Black Sea Fleet and continued maneuvering dangerously. In order to stop the Ukrainian ships, weapons had to be used. The three vessels were detained in Russian territorial waters. A criminal investigation was opened into the border incident. The Ukrainian ships’ crew members, 24 Ukrainian nationals, have been arrested until January 25, 2019. They 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.

Moscow branded Kiev's stunt in the Kerch Strait as a dangerous provocation, while the European Union and NATO called for a de-escalation of tensions.