The Lefortovo Moscow City Court has extended until late April the detention, initially ordered by the court of Simferopol in the illegally-annexed Crimean peninsula, of 24 Ukrainian servicemen. The European Union Delegation in Moscow along with 15 EU diplomatic missions were denied the right to observe the proceedings at the Lefortovo Moscow City Court.
The servicemen have been held since 25 November 2018, when Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crews and fired shots at them, wounding several Ukrainian servicemen, near the Kerch Strait. As we have repeatedly said, we expect Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage through the Kerch Strait to and from the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law. Further, this use of force by Russia is unacceptable.
We expect Russia to immediately and unconditionally release the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors, to respect their right to legal representation and unhindered access by consular authorities, and to ensure that the injured crewmen receive appropriate medical treatment.