Klimkin: International tribunal decision thwarts Russia's plans to use Ukrainian POWs as bargaining chips
The decision by the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordering Russia to release three ships of the Ukrainian Navy and 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in the Kerch Strait area in November 2018 and allow them to return to Ukraine has disrupted Moscow's plans. Russia wanted to use the Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) as bargaining chips, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has said.
"The decision in Hamburg broke the Russian logic, according to which they intended to use our [citizens] as bargaining chips, playing on the political situation. Now, together with friends and partners, we will turn a symbolic victory into practical levers. And we will definitely return the POWs home," he said on Twitter on Tuesday.
On November 25, 2018, Russian border guards reportedly captured the Ukrainian Yany Kapu raid tug and small armored artillery boats Berdyansk and Nikopol of Ukraine's Naval Forces. The boats were heading from Odesa to Mariupol. Russia fired on the vessels, seized the boats and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors, wounding three of them.
Russia has charged the sailors with crossing the Ukraine-Russia border illegally.
On April 16, 2019, Ukraine applied to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for provisional measures against Russia for the release of Ukrainian sailors and ships.
The Foreign Ministry noted that, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, naval vessels and their personnel have absolute immunity, which provides that foreign states cannot arrest, detain and judge them.
On May 10, hearings of the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in the case of the Ukrainian sailors began in Hamburg. An agent from Ukraine at the hearing was Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine for European integration Olena Zerkal.
On May 25, the Tribunal issued a ruling that obliged Russia to release three Ukrainian ships and the 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in the Kerch Strait area in November 2018 and allow them to return to Ukraine. Some 19 judges voted for this decision, one judge – Ruslan Kolodkin (from Russia) – against.
The Tribunal ordered Russia to report on the implementation of this decision by June 25, 2019, and also obliged Ukraine and Russia to refrain from any actions that could aggravate or prolong the dispute.