The Lefortovo Moscow City Court has again extended the detention of 24 Ukrainian servicemen, this time until 24 and 26 July respectively. Their detention was initially ordered by the court of Simferopol in the illegally-annexed Crimean peninsula. The European Union Delegation in Moscow along with a number of EU diplomatic missions were observing the proceedings at the Lefortovo Moscow City Court until the moment when the hearings were declared closed to the public.
The servicemen have been held since 25 November 2018, when they were captured and their vessels seized near the Kerch Strait by Russia using military force with no justification.
The EU has repeatedly stated its expectation that Russia immediately and unconditionally release the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors. While the sailors remain detained, Russia must respect their right to legal representation, unhindered access by consular authorities, and ensure that all crewmen receive appropriate medical treatment as several of them were wounded during the capture.
The EU has responded to the escalation at the Kerch Strait by adding Russian officials to the list of those subject to restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. We expect Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage through the Kerch Strait to and from the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.