Ukraine calls on PACE to adopt ‘Azov sanctions package’ against Russia

Ukraine calls on European partners to increase pressure on Russia and adopt the "Azov sanctions package" for seizing Ukrainian sailors in the Kerch Strait, said Iryna Herashchenko, the First Vice-Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada during a speech at the PACE.

“The Russian Federation has violated at least five articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. We urge our European partners to introduce new sanctions, namely the “Azov sanctions package” against the Russian Federation and the Russians involved in this provocation. We demand the immediate release of 24 prisoners of war unilaterally without prerequisites or exchanges”, Herashchenko wrote on Facebook.

She added that Ukraine is ready to transfer to the Russian Federation 25 convicted Russians in exchange for Kremlin’s political prisoners Oleh Sentsov and others.

In addition, Herashchenko noted that in accordance with the Third Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the Ukrainian side demands that Russia treat Ukrainian sailors in accordance with their status and not hinder the visits of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross to them.

She recalled that in Minsk, the Ukrainian side raised the issue of a permanent OSCE observation point in Kerch.

“Azov and the Crimea are Ukrainian territories. The OSCE, which has a mandate for the entire territory of Ukraine, is obliged to monitor the security situation there,” Herashchenko said and added that Ukraine can hear the “Russian hysteria” in response.

The First Vice-Speaker called on her PACE colleagues to visit Mariupol.

Earlier, the Baltic countries and Poland did not support the introduction of the Azov sanctions package against Russia. 

On the morning of November 25, Ukraine informed the Russian port of its intention to transfer three ships through the Kerch Strait, as required by the Agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. However, at around 8:00 a.m., Russian ships carried out acts of provocation against the Ukrainian vessels, even ramming into the Yany Kapu tugboat.

Russia later accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its territorial waters, claiming that they were “maneuvering dangerously” and “not complying with the legitimate demands of the Russian authorities”. Russia also physically blocked the Kerch Strait with a transport ship. The Ukrainian ships decided to return to Odessa, but they were chased and subsequently attacked by the Russian military. The Berdiansk and Nikopol boats were hit, and two crew members were wounded. All three of the ships were seized by Russia.

On November 28, the Kremlin-controlled court of Simferopol placed the Ukrainian sailors under 2 months of arrest – until January 25, 2019.

  PACE, Ukraine, Herashchenko, Russia, Sea of Azov, Europe, Kerch Bridge