On January 15, the Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait refused to answer questions at Moscow's Lefortovo district court citing the Geneva Convention. The Court rejected the application to refer the case to the Moscow Garrison Military Court, Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine Lyudmyla Denisova told RIA Novosti. The Ukrainian lawyers are presenting the position that the sailors are prisoners of war.
The court has yet to decide whether to extend the arrest of the Ukrainian sailors until April 6. The prosecutors asked to extend the term of detention. Since there are 24 sailors, sessions were held in three rooms at the same time, with no more than four sailors in the dock at the same time.
Ukrainian media emphasized that the detained crews of three ships refused to testify, citing Article 17 of the Geneva Convention. This Article is applied to prisoners of war as the Ukrainian sailors consider themselves to be. However, Russia insists they are not prisoners of war but state border violators. Ukrainian media also report that people shouted, "Glory to Ukraine!" in the room when the sailors were taken to lunch.
The session was closed to the public thereafter as the court considered extending the arrest.
On the morning of November 25, Ukraine informed the Russian port of its intention to transfer three ships through the Kerch Strait, as required by the Agreement on the joint use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. However, at around 8:00 a.m., Russian ships carried out acts of provocation against the Ukrainian vessels, even ramming into the Yany Kapu tugboat.
Russia later accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its territorial waters, claiming that they were “maneuvering dangerously” and “not complying with the legitimate demands of the Russian authorities”. Russia also physically blocked the Kerch Strait with a transport ship. The Ukrainian ships decided to return to Odessa, but they were chased and subsequently attacked by the Russian military. The Berdiansk and Nikopol boats were hit, and two crew members were wounded. All three of the ships were seized by Russia.
On November 28, the Kremlin-controlled court of Simferopol placed the Ukrainian sailors under 2 months of arrest – until January 25, 2019.