Ukrainian Tugboats Arrive in Waiting Area to Pickup Ships Captured by Russia
The tugboats arrived in neutral waters near the Kerch Peninsula at 4 a.m. today (Nov. 18)
Ukrainian tugboats – set to tow the three Ukrainian ships captured by Russia in November 2018 – arrived this morning in a waiting area in neutral waters near the Kerch Peninsula.
The Ukrainian vessels – the Berdyansk, the Nikopol, and the Yany Kapu – two small Ukrainian armored artillery vessels and a tug boat – had been fired on by the Russian Federal Security Service on Nov. 25, 2018 when they attempted to pass from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait on their way to Mariupol. Russia took the crews and ships captive, claiming that Ukraine had entered its territory – the sea off the coast of the Crimean peninsula that Russia had illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“The monitoring group of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies, the editorial offices of BlackSeaNews, and the Maidan of Foreign Affairs, report that the tugboats arrived in the waiting area where the handover of captured Ukrainian Navy ships should take place (map 1) at 4 a.m. (Kyiv time) on November 18, 2019,” Chair of the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Supervisory Board Andrii Klymenko posted on Facebook.
The waiting area is 33.3 kilometers due south of Cape Opuk on the Kerch Peninsula, i.e. in neutral waters. According to Klymenko, the point, where the Ukrainian military ships and the Ukrainian Navy tugboat were seized almost a year ago, is about 18.5 kilometers east (map 2).
On May 25, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Russia to release Ukraine’s sailors and its three ships.
On Sep. 7, Ukraine and Russia exchanged detainees in a 35-for-35 format. As part of that deal, Ukraine’s 24 seamen were returned.
On Saturday (Nov. 16), Assistant to the Ukrainian President Andriy Yermak announced the final stage of the return of the three Ukrainian ships.
The ships are now being towed from the Kerch port to an agreed site for handover to the Ukrainian side, scheduled for today (Nov. 18).
The tugboats Tytan, Haydamaka, and Sapfir were sent from Odesa to deliver the seized ships.