Russia to return ships seized in Kerch Strait to Ukraine

Russia will return to Ukraine the ships detained during the conflict in the Kerch Strait, reports Kommersant, citing two informed sources.

According to the newspaper's interlocutors, the countries are at the final stage of negotiations. Parties already agreed on the date and exact place of the transfer of the ships.

Sources say that the return of the ships will take place at sea, not in port. Three Russian tugs will tow the vessels to an agreed point where three Ukrainian tugs will meet them. Vessels will be returned to Ukraine equipped with regular arms but without ammunition.

According to sources, the return of the ships could happen before the end of November, perhaps even next week. Thus, the problem will be solved before the Normandy Four Summit on the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas.

Earlier, on November 15, the press service of French President Emmanuel Macron released a statement according to which the Normandy Four Summit with the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France will be held on December 9 in Paris. Ukraine and Germany confirmed their participation.

On 25 November 2018, Russian border guards seized three Ukrainian ships in the neutral waters of the Black Sea. The crews of the two artillery boats and one tugboat (24 people) were taken to Simferopol, Crimea, where the Russia-controlled court placed all the Ukrainians under arrest. The following day, the sailors were relocated to Moscow, where they remain to this day.

On 25 May this year, the UN’s International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled that Russia must release all the Ukrainian sailors and return the three ships. Russia has said that it will not comply with the tribunal’s demands.

On the same day, a court in Moscow rejected the appeals of the Ukrainian prisoners of war and ordered that they remain in custody until the end of July.

On September 7, Russia released the Ukrainian sailors as art of prisoner swap with Ukraine.

  Kerch Strait, Ukraine, Russia, Normandy Four