Russia attacks Ukrainian ships returning to Odesa after being denied information about possibility of passing under Kerch bridge – Muzhenko
Ukrainian ships were shelled when they left the Kerch Strait accompanied by Russian ships after being denied permission to cross under the bridge to the Sea of Azov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko has said.
"During the scheduled voyage on November 24, 2018 we received a message about closing the passage zone in the Kerch Strait area. Confirmations through the international control center, which is located in Spain, did not have information about this zone closure," Muzhenko reported at a meeting of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) on Monday night.
Muzhenko said this was a planned transfer of Ukrainian ships, boats and ships from a permanent base station in Odesa to Mariupol.
"On November 25 at about 4:00 a.m., the senior officer made two requests to the control tower in Kerch regarding the possibility of passage and specifying the passage schedule in the Kerch bridge zone. No information was received. No reply was received. The ships continued their voyage. They later received a message directing them to the waiting area, where the order of passage under the arch of the Crimean bridge would be determined," Muzhenko said. He added that on Sunday at 11:00 a message was relayed about the closure of the passage and the relevant information appeared at the international control center.
Muzhenko said this information was not true, because two Russian anti-sabotage boats later passed under the arch of the Kerch bridge.
Russians said it was impossible for Ukrainian vessels to pass under the bridge because a cargo ship was stranded there, Muzhenko said, adding that Ukrainian Navy ships decided to return to Odesa after not receiving additional information by 5:00 p.m.
"As the ships left the waiting area and began their voyage back to their permanent base [in Odesa], somewhere at a distance of 13-14 miles from the coast of Crimea, about 40 kilometers southeast of Kerch, Russian Navy ships blocked the Ukrainian vessels and opened fire," Muzhenko said, adding contact with the Ukrainian vessels was subsequently lost.