Ukrainian ships currently not passing through Kerch Strait – State border service
Ukrainian ships currently do not cross the Kerch Strait, and foreign ships pass freely, Ukraine's State Border Service Spokesman Oleh Slobodian has said.
"Vessels flying the Ukrainian flag, as a rule, practically do not pass through the Kerch Strait. As for foreign ships, now, under pressure from the international community, the Russian Federation lets them pass more freely, with fewer obstacles, to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov," Slobodian said during a briefing in Kyiv on Thursday.
He said Russia this year detained and inspected 67 foreign ships moving to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.
As earlier reported, on November 25, 2018, Russian border guards used weapons to stop three Ukrainian naval vessels, the Yany Kapu tug and the Berdiansk and the Nikopol armored gunboats, which were traveling from Odesa to Mariupol in the Kerch Strait. The vessels were escorted to Kerch. Three sailors were injured.
The vessels were convoyed to Kerch, and 24 Ukrainians who were on them were arrested and accused of "illegally crossing the border" and charged with "conspiracy by a group of persons or an organized group to illegally cross the border using violence or the threat to use violence." If found guilty, they could face up to six years in prison.
In late November, the Ukrainians were transferred to Moscow. The court extended all the Ukrainians' arrests until April 24.
Kyiv calls the detained sailors prisoners of war and has demanded their release.