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Ukraine to seek international status for Kerch Strait — Foreign Ministry

KIEV, May 28. /TASS/. Ukraine will seek an international status for the Kerch Strait, separating the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yelena Zerkal has said.

"It is very important for me to ensure that the Kerch Strait gets the status of an international strait. This would solve numerous issues that still exist," she told the Novoye Radio station late on Monday.

Commenting on the recent International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) incident regarding the 2018 Russian-Ukrainian Kerch Strait incident, she said that the ministry "has already prepared a note that would be submitted to the Russian Foreign Ministry today, in which we ask where can we get our ships back and when and where will our consuls will be able to take our sailors held in [Russia’s] Lefortovo prison."

She said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry would demand that Russia "implement the tribunal’s ruling without delay."

Kerch Strait incident

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian naval ships illegally crossed Russia’s border and tried to carry out some illegal actions in Russian territorial waters. 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 were arrested. They are charged with violating the Russian border under Article 322.3 of the Russian Criminal Code and may face up to six years in prison if found guilty.

On May 25, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ordered Russia to release the three Ukrainian naval vessels and their 24 servicemen. Moscow refused to participate in the hearings, saying that ITLOS had no authority to consider the matter.