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Ukraine’s refusal to discuss the release conditions of Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait demonstrates that Kiev is using those sailors as a pretense to blackmail Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.
"Ukraine’s reaction has shocked me, and I thought that the Kiev regime cannot surprise me anymore. However, it seems like we do not know [Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel] Klimkin that well. He said: "Ukraine does not plan to accept Russia’s offer regarding the sailors detained in the Kerch Strait, sent via note by the Russian Foreign Ministry received by Kiev," Zakharova wrote. "That is, Kiev only needs the Ukrainian sailors to remain in Russia! As another blackmail tool and a pretense to blame Moscow for all evils."
The diplomat added that Russia offered to release the Ukrainian sailors from custody upon receipt of a written guarantee that they will participate in the preliminary investigation and the court proceedings, TASS reports.
"I would like to stress once again that not only has the Ukrainian side refused to use the release procedures existing in the Russian legal system, it has refused to even discuss this issue," she concluded. "Kiev doesn’t need the sailors; it needs the commotion caused by them. This is why they were sent to the Kerch Strait in November 2018."
On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian warships, en route from Odessa to Mariupol, illegally crossed Russia’s state border, entered Russia’s territorial waters in the Kerch Strait and started performing dangerous maneuvers. Despite the repeated warnings and demands to stop, the Ukrainian vessels continued their way, forcing Russia to use weapons.
All three Ukrainian ships were detained in the Black Sea. Three Ukrainian servicemen were slightly wounded and received medical assistance. A criminal case has been launched over the violation of Russia’s state border. Moscow slammed the incident as a provocation. Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors have been detained and are currently at detention facilities in Moscow.
On June 22, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has ruled that Russia must return the detained ships to Ukraine and release all sailors from custody. In response, Russia stated that it does not recognize the ITLOS jurisdiction regarding this case, because the Kerch Strait and the Azov Sea form part of the internal waters of Russia and Ukraine and therefore are not subject to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.