During a meeting with the support group advocating for the release of the Ukrainian sailors, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that US officials refused any meeting with Russian diplomats until Moscow releases the detainees who were arrested in the Kerch Strait.
According to Poroshenko, Washington’s decision was announced by US Vice President Michael Pence, whom he met during the Munich Security Conference.
“In Munich, during the Security Conference, I had a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence who said that the US leadership canceled all meetings with the Russians because of the act of aggression in the Kerch Strait. And until [the Ukrainian sailors] are released, there will be no meetings,” Interfax-Ukraine quotes Poroshenko as saying..
Poroshenko did not say exactly when the US ceased contact with Russia. The meeting of the Vice President of the United States and the President of Ukraine took place on February 16.
On 25 November last year, Russia attacked and captured the Ukrainian military boats Berdyansk and Nikopol and the tugboat Yany Kapu in neutral waters. All 24 Ukrainians on board were accused of violating the Russian state border, arrested, and transferred from Kerch to Moscow. Ukraine considered this an act of military aggression, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognized the captured sailors as prisoners of war.
US President Donald Trump canceled his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin because of the Kerch Strait incident. US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker similarly called off his scheduled negotiation session with Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov.
Oleksandr Turchynov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in December that Ukraine had invited its international partners to take part in a passage of naval ships from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait. The Russian media warned that this could “aggravate the situation”.