Russia is blatantly blocking the attempts to release the Ukrainian sailors captured in Kerch Strait, as Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, the Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, said during the 4th Ukrainian Lab arranged by Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels, as Ukrinform reported.
“We’ve heard many different statements from the Russian authorities. They insist they are not going to take any steps till the end of the presidential elections. This shows that they are waiting for Ukraine to get weak, they are cynically trying to hint that it will be a gift if Ukraine makes up its mind and chooses the president, who won’t be that incompliant in the dialogue with Russia. I think that this is one of the reasons for us to make conclusions about Russia’s goals,” she said.
Vice Prime Minister also stressed that Ukraine expects that the EU will continue pressuring Russian with sanctions. Last week, the EU announced the first sanctions imposed for Azov crisis. According to Klympush-Tsintsadze, this is just a beginning.
“We will be discussing the ways to develop a pressure of the EU upon Russia, the ways to release our POWs, our sailors, who were illegally captured by Russian Federation. It is not only about the cooperation with the EU, but it is also about coordination with NATO and OSCE. The goal of such efforts is to make Russia observe the international law and decisions made at the level of the EU and Council of Europe,” the Minister stated.
On November 25, the coast guard ships of the Russian Navy attacked the ships of the Ukrainian Navy, which have been carrying out a scheduled transition from Odesa port to Mariupol port in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian ships were rejected passage via the Kerch Strait, Russian coast guards opened aimed fire on them.
All 24 sailors on board were captured and delivered to Moscow – 21 of them were delivered to Lefortovo remand center, another - to the hospital of Matrosskaya Tishina prison.
On December 3, the Russian prosecutors officially accused Ukrainian sailors with the 'illegal crossing of the state border' during the attack in the Kerch Strait.
Facing an extension of the sentence term, Ukrainian POWs detained in the Kerch Strait refused to testify in Lefortovo court. Sailors were distributed into six groups, four people in each. On January 15, 2019, Moscow's Lefortovo district court decided to keep 20 Ukrainian sailors in remand until April 24. On January 16, the court extended the detention term for another 4 sailors.
As we reported, lawyer Nikolai Polozov, who deals with the defense of Ukrainian prisoners of war, confirmed that three Ukrainian sailors wounded in the Russian Navy attack on Ukrainian ships were brought from Matrosskaya Tishina to Lefortovo prison in Moscow. He also added that it happened on Monday, January 28.