Ukrainian ships intercepted by Russia in the Kerch Strait – REUTERS / STRINGER. – Archive
MOSCOW, Nov. 17 (EUROPE PRESS) –
Russia will return on Monday the three Ukrainian warships captured in November 2018, according to sources confirmed by the Russian Parliament and the Crimean Coast Guard.
The ships are moving towards neutral waters where they will be delivered to the Ukrainian side, as stated by Deputy Dimitri Belik.
“They will arrive at the meeting point without any military escort, since our territorial waters extend along the peninsula and no additional escort is needed,” he added in statements collected by the official Russian news agency, RIA Novosti.
On November 25, 2018, three ships of the Ukrainian Navy violated the Russian border upon entering a provisionally closed area of the Black Sea and advanced towards the Kerch Strait, which joins the Black and Azov seas.
According to Russia, Ukrainian vessels performed dangerous maneuvers and turned a deaf ear to the demand to stop, so they were arrested along with their 24 crew members.
Ukraine, on the other hand, denounces that the three ships were intercepted when they were on a transit mission, in an operation in which shots were even fired by the Russian coastguards, thereby violating the immunity conferred on them by the Convention on Law of the Sea
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the provocation incident and said that among the crew of the offending ships were two agents of the Security Service of Ukraine, who were in fact directing the operation, and stressed that the Russian border guards were fulfilling his professional duty.
On September 7, the soldiers who violated the border were handed over to Ukraine under the agreements on the simultaneous release of prisoners.
At the bottom of this matter is the dispute over Crimea. Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014, within the framework of the armed conflict between the forces of Kiev and the pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of Donbas that still continues.
The European Union saw in the incident in Kerch, the last of a long series, one more attempt by Russia to extend its control over the Azov Sea against Ukrainian sovereignty. The international community does not recognize Russian dominance over Crimea.