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Russian human rights defender calls for changing preventive measures for Ukrainian sailors

The ombudsperson views talks on the possible prisoner swap as a sign of reset in Russia-Ukraine relations
Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova Alexei Druzhinin/Presidential press service/TASS
Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova
© Alexei Druzhinin/Presidential press service/TASS

MOSCOW, July 17. /TASS/. It would be right to change the preventive punishment for Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait for violating Russia’s border, Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova told Rossiya-24 TV channel on Wednesday.

"It seems to me that changing the preventive punishment for them would be the right and humane thing to do," she said.

Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court earlier upheld the investigation’s request to extend the arrest of 13 out of the 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait.

Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova also announced that the dialogue on the exchange of detainees between Russia and Ukraine had been unblocked, praising it as a sign of a possible reset between the countries.

"The dialogue on cooperation on Russian citizens in custody in Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens in Russia has been unblocked. This is a good sign, if not a guarantee, and in this case — the first hint that the relations [between the two countries - TASS] are resetting," Moskalkova told reporters following submission of a report on her work in the State Duma (Russia’s lower chamber).

Kerch Strait incident

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian naval ships illegally crossed Russia’s border and allegedly tried to carry out some unlawful activities in Russian territorial waters. They ignored legitimate demands to stop from vessels of the FSB (Federal Security Service) Border Service and the Black Sea Fleet, and continued maneuvering dangerously. In order to bring the Ukrainian ships to a halt, weapons had to be used. The three vessels were finally detained in Russian territorial waters.

A criminal investigation was opened into the border incident. The Ukrainian ships’ crew 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.

Moskalkova told Ukrainian TV on July 15 that Russia was ready to release the sailors and return the ships to Ukraine if Kiev made an obligation to ensure their participation in legal proceedings. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, in turn, told reporters that Moscow and Kiev were discussing a possible swap involving the sailors.