Russia must immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships that were captured in the “Kerch Incident”, a NATO press representative told the media.
Citing a statement released by NATO on 28 November 2018 and one by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on 4 April 2019, the source emphasized that the alliance has repeatedly made it clear that there was no reason for Russia to use military force against the Ukrainian soldiers and vessels.
On Saturday 25 May, the UN’s International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled that Russia must release the Ukrainian ships and sailors that it captured near the Kerch Strait in November 2018. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded that the tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to rule on the incident.
On 25 November 2018 in the the Kerch Strait, Russian border guards seized the Ukrainian tugboat Yany Kapu and the small armored artillery boats Nikopol and Berdyansk, which were en route from Odessa to Mariupol. The ships were taken to Kerch.
The 24 Ukrainians on board were accused of illegally crossing the border and could face up to six years in prison according Russia’s legal system. At the end of November 2018, the prisoners were transferred to Moscow.