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Captured Ukrainian sailors might soon be home: new details

Detained in the Kerch Strait Ukrainian sailors might be released from Russian prison before October under the personal guarantee of Lyudmila Denisova, as reported by “Izvestia iz” with a reference to Ukrainian lawyer Mykola Polozov.

According to him, written guarantees have already been sent to the Investigation Department of Russia’s FSB, assuring that those accused of violating the Russian border will continue to participate in judicial and investigative actions after their return to Ukraine. As a high-ranking source in Russian diplomatic circles explained, Moscow is indeed ready to transfer 24 sailors to Kyiv providing they receive written guarantees. This was actually stated in the Foreign Ministry’s note to the Ukrainian side on June 25.

It is noted that Russia does not refuse the offer to send Ukrainian sailors home, changing their preventive measure and receiving written assurances from Kyiv that all the defendants will continue to participate in the process over them. Moscow is also ready to cooperate in a constructive manner and release the detainees to their homeland. However, there is no talk of stopping the criminal prosecution.

“As soon as according individuals in Russia receive the necessary document from Ukraine and study it, we will be able to discuss the next steps. We, however, do not go back on our words,” the source said.

Meanwhile, according to lawyer Mykola Polozov, the Ukrainian side has already started working on the implementation of Russian Foreign Ministry’s proposal.

“Ukrainian Ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova sent a petition for issuing a personal guarantee through the Russian Foreign Ministry to the FSB Investigation Department. Russian note of June 25 stated that Russia needs written guarantees according to Russian Federation’s criminal law. Personal guarantee is a tool to assure the participation of an individual in judicial and investigative actions,” said the lawyer of Ukrainian sailors. Currently FSB has the needed document, but it has not yet reached the executor - the investigator in charge of this case. It is he who must, within the time specified by law, which is three days, make a decision on this matter."

The lawyer has also noted that if the petition is sustained, the sailors will be released from under arrest. If it’s declined, the decision may be appealed.

“Practically, proposals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, stated in a note, are being implemented. Naturally, after a telephone conversation between Presidents Volodymyr Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, the corresponding form of a guarantee was submitted,” Polozov emphasized.

The Office of the Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for Human Rights confirmed the fact of transferring the personal guarantee to the according authorities of the Russian Federation. However, it is unknown when Ukraine could expect an answer.

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On November 25, 2018, Russian FSB shot and captured Ukrainian boats “Berdyansk” and “Nikopol”, as well as the tug “Yana Kapu”, in the Black Sea. The boats were returning to Odessa after trying to pass through the Kerch Strait.

Russian security forces illegally detained 24 Ukrainian sailors -- three of them were injured. Ukrainians were accused of illegally crossing the Russian border. The “court hearing” was held in the occupied Crimea. The sailors were then transferred to Moscow.

On April 16, 2019, Ukraine appealed to the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to release captured sailors and ships. On May 25, the UN Tribunal promulgated a decision on the application of temporary measures in the case of Ukraine’s claim against Russia. The court ordered the Russian Federation to release the sailors. At the same time, the court did not satisfy Ukraine’s request to oblige the Russian Federation to stop the criminal prosecution of prisoners.

The deadline for implementing the decision passed on June 25. On this day, a note was received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, which offered Ukraine to provide written guarantees of continued criminal prosecution of Ukrainian sailors in accordance with Russian legislation. In a response note, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called Moscow’s position unacceptable.

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As reported by “Apostrophe”, the Russian FSB, after four months of negotiations, released the sailors’ dog Jessie to Ukraine. Jessie was aboard the ship Yana Kapu when it was captured in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. The dog will live in the family of a prisoner of war Serhii Chuliba in the Kherson region.