Steps made by the MFA to protect the rights of Ukrainian sailors

On 27 November 2018 the MFA of Ukraine expresses its strong protest to the Russian Federation in connection with the armed attack against the militaries of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the crew-members of the Ukrainian navy ships «Berdyansk», «Nikopol» and the tug boat «Yany Kapu». They were captured due to the act of armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine in the territorial seawaters and exclusive economic zone of our state in the Black Sea on 25 November this year. Russia is strongly demanded to release the captured citizens of Ukraine immediately and to ensure their immediate safe return home. Ukraine demanded once again to ensure the legal rights of the captured citizens of Ukraine, defined by Geneva Convention dated 12 August 1949 on Treatment of Victims of War and to provide the access of the representatives of ICRC to them.

On this day MFA of Ukraine informed the Permanent Court of Arbitration, considering the case of Ukraine vs Russia on the violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, on the last aggressive actions of Russia in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Straight, which considerably worsened the disputes between the states. Ukraine drew attention to the continued brutal harassment against Ukrainian and foreign vessels, anticipated to come through the Kerch Straight in the direction of Mariupol, Berdyansk and other seaports of Ukraine. Russia’s actions effectively closed the Kerch Strait to all vessels, resulting in protests not only by Ukraine, but also by authorities representing other Black Sea littoral States, including the European Union and Turkey, which both insisted on freedom of passage through the Strait.

Russia’s latest actions, including firing and seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels, mark a serious escalation of a months’-long pattern, in which vessels flagged both to Ukraine and to third states have repeatedly faced obstacles to navigation, including extended stops that have caused significant economic losses.  Only vessels heading to Ukrainian ports have been affected by such stops; vessels bound for Russian ports in the Sea of Azov have not reported similar interference.  Ukraine has protested Russia’s actions, has raised them with its allies and by appealing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, has demonstrated its intent to challenge Russia’s conduct through appropriate legal means.