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Crew of detained tanker are returning home from Ukraine — Russian embassy

The vessel will remain in Ukraine
The blocked passage under the Crimean Bridge arch Alexei Pavlishak//TASS
The blocked passage under the Crimean Bridge arch
© Alexei Pavlishak//TASS

KIEV, July 25. /TASS/. Ten sailors from the Russian tanker detained in Izmail will be taken to Moscow in the near future, Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova said on Thursday.

"Moskalkova talked to [Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila] Denisova, and the latter told her that no one arrested the sailors, they boarded a bus and are being taken to the Republic of Moldova. From there they will be brought to Moscow in the near future," the Russian commissioner’s press service issued a statement.

The press service specified that it will take several hours for the sailors to reach Moldova.

The crew of the Russian tanker detained in the Ukrainian port of Izmail are returning home but the vessel will remain in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Kiev told TASS on Thursday.

"The crew members are heading home but the vessel remains in Izmail," the latter noted.

The tanker’s detention

On July 25, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) stated that it had detained Russia’s Nika Spirit tanker at the port of Izmail. According to the SBU, it was actually the Neyma tanker that had blocked the movement of Ukrainian ships during the Kerch Strait incident in November 2018.

According to Ukrainian border guards, the Nika Spirit flying the Russian flag was identified at the port of Izmail through its IMO number as the Neyma tanker that had been used to shut the Kerch Strait, as per the Equasis information system.

The SBU added that a group of investigators and military prosecutors had searched the tanker with court permission, seizing documents, logbooks and radio communication recordings made during the incident. The tanker’s crew were questioned.

In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that it was working to figure out the circumstances of the tanker’s detention in order to be able to take appropriate measures.

The Kerch Strait incident

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian naval ships illegally crossed Russia’s border and tried to carry out some unlawful actions in Russian territorial waters. They ignored legitimate demands to come to a halt from 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 were put into custody. 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.