Russia returns Ukrainian vessels seized during the Kerch Strait incident

Russia returns Ukrainian vessels seized during the Kerch Strait incident

Russian authorities have returned three Ukrainian military ships from their Crimean port to Ukraine. The navy vessels were seized during a clash in the Kerch Strait last year.


On November 18 Russia transferred three Ukrainian vessels seized during the incident in the Kerch Strait to Ukraine,YLE reported.

Russian RIA Novosti reported that the vessels had been voluntarily transferred to “the custody of the Ukrainian side for safe storage due to the fact that the Russian authorities completed the necessary investigative actions and… their presence in the territory of the Russian Federation is not necessary” quoting the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Russian Vedomosti business daily quotes the Ukrainian military portal which held the reportage on the transfer of three vessels, Nikopol and Berdyansk boats and Yani Kapu tugboat. According to the Ukrainian military portal, Russia returned neither documents on the vessels nor USA-made Harris radio stations the vessels were equipped with. Ihor Voronchenko, the commander of the Ukrainian Navy, tells Ukrainian RBK that they expect the vessels return to the Ukrainain ports on November 20 or 21.

Russian Kommersant reports on the Russian authorities having made their decision to return the vessels to Ukraine before the Normandy Four summit which is preliminary scheduled for December 9. At that, the newspaper makes a specific point that the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry didn’t officially link the transfer of the vessels with the coming Normandy format summit.

Ukrainian 112 news channel quotes Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Olena Zerkal as telling that the Arbitration Tribunal of the International Court of Justice would hold a hearing on the violation of Ukraine’s rights as a coastal state in the Black, Azov Seas and Kerch Strait on November 21.

“While ‘Nikopol’, ‘Berdyansk’ and ‘Yany Kapu’ are heading home to Odesa, the Foreign Ministry team heads to Hague, where the first hearing of the arbitration tribunal in the case of immunity of three Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 members of their crew according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea will be held on Thursday … Our goal is to identify the violation of the law, to restore it and to receive the proper compensation”, Zerkal wrote on her Facebook page.

“Berdyansk”, “Nikopol” and “Yany Kapu” were seized on November 25, 2018 in the Kerch Strait together 24 people, the vessels staff as well as SBU(Ukraine’s Security Service) officers who were overseeing the operation. On September 7, 2019 all 22 sailors and 2 SBU officers were returned to Ukraine during the exchange of prisoners.

The Ukrainian Alert with the Finnish Peace Committee already covered the probes opened against the ex-president Petro Poroshenko, also into his role in staging the Kerch Strait accident. The ex-President, according to the Kyiv Post, “is also being investigated for an allegation of treason, in relation to the Kerch Strait incident in November 2018, during which Russia illegally seized 24 Ukrainian sailors near Russian-occupied Crimea. The State Investigation Bureau is also looking into allegations that Poroshenko influenced judges and meddled in court rulings”.