Russia to Handover Ukrainian Vessels Seized at Kerch Strait

According to the statement of the Federal Security Service’s Border Service in Crimea on 18th November, Russia will hand over Ukrainian warships, which were seized last year in the Kerch Strait.

“In line with the agreements reached with Ukraine, three Ukrainian vessels – the Yany Kapu tugboat and small armored artillery boats Berdyansk and Nikopol – are being towed from the Kerch port to an agreed area of handover to the Ukrainian side, which will take place on November 18,” the press service said in a statement.

By the end of 2019, the 10-year transit gas contract between Russia and Ukraine will expire. It is remarkable that Russia is making such a gesture while negotiations are under way for a new contract. We will see the result in the following weeks.

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian warships, en route from Odessa to Mariupol, crossed Russia’s state border while underway to their destination, entered Russia’s territorial waters in the Kerch Strait. Russian side claims that these vessels performied dangerous maneuvers at Russian territorial waters and despite the repeated warnings and demands to stop, the Ukrainian vessels continued their way, forcing Russia to use weapons. All three Ukrainian ships were detained in the Black Sea, along with 24 Ukrainian sailors.

On September 7, Moscow and Kiev carried out a “35 for 35” exchange of detainees, which included the 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait.