Ukraine detains Russian tanker involved in Kerch Strait attack

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Military Prosecutor’s Office have detained the Russian tanker NEYMA which blocked the Ukrainian Navy’s boats in the Kerch Strait in November, 2018.

“During the pretrial investigation, it was established that, by direct order of the Russian FSB top leadership, the FSB’s Border Guard Service officials committed an act of armed aggression against the Ukrainian naval vessels Nikopol, Berdyansk, and the Yany Kapu tugboat in the Kerch Strait,” news agency UNIAN quotes the Ukrainian Security Service’s (SBU) statement.

According to the SBU, Russian coast guards’ resorting to weapons when blocking the movement of Ukrainian vessels during the passage of the Kerch-Yenikale Canal was contrary to the norms of international maritime law.

A motion asking a court to seize the Russian vessel is being prepared; the tanker is recognized as material evidence in the case. Interestingly, now it has the name NIKA SPIRIT instead of NEYMA. On July 24, it entered the port of Izmail under the Russian flag. The owners might have changed its name to conceal its involvement in the act of aggression.

‘Bring us back home’: Ukrainian sailor sends letter from Russian prison

On November 25, three Ukrainian ships were captured by the Russian special forces when going from Odessa to Mariupol. The Russian side accused them of violating the state border and ‘dangerous maneuvering’ and sent military reinforcements to the scene of the incident, including combat helicopters.

Since the Ukrainian ships were not allowed into the Sea of ​​Azov, they finally turned back to Odessa. But the Russians pursued the Ukrainians in neutral waters, demanded a halt, and eventually used lethal force. Gunboats Nikopol and Berdyansk as well as tugboat Yany Kapu were captured and sent to Kerch. Russia took prisoner 24 people, 6 sailors were injured.

In response, 30-day martial law was introduced in 10 regions of Ukraine — those bordering Russia, Transnistria and the Black Sea coast, as well as in Chernihiv region bordering Belarus. In turn, Vladimir Putin called the incident ‘provocation staged by Petro Poroshenko ahead of the presidential election in Ukraine’.

In January 2019, Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Russia in the for the detention of sailors in the Black Sea., following UNIAN