Russia returning the three captured Ukrainian naval vessels should be considered nothing more than the implementation of a court ruling, wrote Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodniuk on Telegram.
“It is not an act of goodwill… I consider these developments nothing other than the aggressor-state implementing the May ruling of the International Sea Tribunal,” Interfax-Ukraine cites him as saying.
The head of Ukraine’s defense department noted that specialists will soon examine the ships returned by Russia and give recommendations on how to return them to service as quickly as possible.
The Ukrainian Navy’s small armored artillery boats Berdyansk and Nikopol, as well as the tugboat Yany Kapu were returned to Ukraine on November 18, after being held by Russia for an entire year.
On November 25, 2018, Russian Armed Forces captured three Ukrainian warships in the neutral waters of the Black Sea. The crew of two boats and a tug (24 people in total) was taken to Simferopol, where a Russian-controlled court arrested all Ukrainians. The next day the sailors were transported to Moscow, where they remain to this day.
On May 25, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea of the United Nations ordered Russia to release all Ukrainian sailors who were taken prisoners in November 2018 and return the three ships to Ukraine. Russia stated that it would not comply with the requirements of the International Tribunal.
The Ukrainian sailors were released by Russia as part of a prisoners swap on September 7.