BRUSSELS, May 26. /TASS/. NATO continues to demand the release of Ukrainian sailors and warships detained in Russia in the wake of the November 2018 Kerch Strait incident, a NATO official informed TASS on Sunday, citing the verdict of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
"NATO has made repeatedly clear that there was no justification for Russia’s use of military force against Ukrainian ships and military personnel. We continue to call on Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships without delay," the official stated.
On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian warships, en route from Odessa to Mariupol, illegally crossed Russia’s state border, entered Russia’s territorial waters in the Kerch Strait and started performing dangerous maneuvers. Despite the repeated warnings and demands to stop, the Ukrainian vessels continued their way, forcing Russia to use weapons. All three Ukrainian ships were detained in the Black Sea. Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors have been detained and are currently at detention facilities in Moscow.
On Saturday, the ITLOS ruled that Russia must release 24 Ukrainian sailors and hand the three naval vessels back. The ITLOS urged the two sides to "refrain from taking any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute.".