The U.S. Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker stated that the West was discussing the possibility of new anti-Russian sanctions for its aggression in Kerch Strait, as Voice of America reported.
“Both the U.S. and Europe think what additional measures should be applied if Russia does not release the detained sailors and will continue seeking control over the Kerch Strait,” he said.
He added that no decisions were made yet, but these decisions might be made in February, on the eve of the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Answering the question whether the new sanctions will concern the Russian ports in Azov Sea, Volker said that such measures were also being considered.
“Russia has partially blocked the access to the Ukrainian ports. It seems they applied the policy of deliberate slowdown. This means that expenses for maritime transport will increase, and material losses of the economy of the region. Our goal is not sanctioning for sanctions. Our goal is to restore free passage in all the ports in the Kerch Strait”.
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.