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Moscow court prolongs arrest for six out of 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in Kerch Strait

They will be remanded in custody until October 24

MOSCOW, July 17. /TASS/. Moscow’s Lefortovo Court satisfied the investigators’ motion to prolong the arrest term for six out of 24 Ukrainian sailors detained for breaching the Russian border in the Kerch Strait, TASS reported from the courtroom.

"The court rules to prolong the detention term for Vlasyuk, Gritsenko, Drach, Zinchenko, Golovash and Popov for three months, that is until October 24," the judge declared the verdict. In the near future the court will study similar motions regarding the other sailors.

On July 15, Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova said on the Ukrainian TV channel Pryamoi live that Russia was ready to release the Ukrainian sailors and return the ships under Kiev’s obligation to ensure the sailors' further participation in the proceedings. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) did not approach Russia for "terminating the criminal case against the sailors, but raised the issue of their release or probably changing the measure of restriction." Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told journalists on July 15 that Russia and Ukraine were discussing the exchange of the Ukrainian sailors.

The border trespassing incident

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian naval ships violated the procedure for passing through Russia’s territorial waters while sailing from the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

The warships were warned by Russia’s maritime security forces to stop. The intruding vessels ignored the demands, thereby evoking a chase involving gunfire in the Kerch Strait in which three Ukrainian navy sailors ended up lightly wounded. They were later provided medical assistance. Consequently, the Ukrainian warships were detained and brought to Kerch. A criminal case was opened into the violation of the Russian state border.

The ships’ crew, 24 Ukrainian nationals, are currently held in a pretrial detention center in Moscow and charged with violating the Russian border under Article 322.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.