BERLIN – The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, said that if Moscow did not comply with the decision of the International Maritime Law Court (ITLOS), which ordered Russia to release Ukrainian seamen detained in November 2018, it would press for new sanctions against Moscow.
On Saturday, ITLOS decided that Moscow should release the 24 sailors who were aboard the three Ukrainian ships that Russia intercepted when after entering Russian waters while sailing towards the Strait of Kerch.
“If Moscow does not immediately comply with the verdict of the International Maritime Tribunal, we will promote new ‘Hamburg’ sanctions!” Said Melnyk on his Twitter account on Saturday.
On November 25, warships Berdyansk and Nikopol of Ukraine and tugboat Yany Kapu illegally crossed the Russian sea border as they sailed towards the Kerch Strait, the entrance to the Sea of Azov.
Russia seized Ukrainian ships and detained crew members, who refused to comply with a stop order. Following the incident, a criminal case was opened in Russia.
Moscow has criticized Kiev’s attempts to portray seamen detained as prisoners of war, emphasizing that they have faced criminal charges.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the incident was a pre-arranged provocation as a pretext for declaring martial law in Ukraine, which was announced after the incident and lasted a month. Putin said the provocation may have been linked to the low approval ratings of then-Ukrainian leader Pyotr Poroshenko, ahead of the presidential election that won by Volodymyr Zelensky.
If released, Russia can take a step to unlocking dialogue with Kiev, stated the president of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, on Saturday.
“The Russian Federation’s compliance with the UN’s international court order to free the captured seamen and Ukrainian vessels could become a first sign that the Russian government is really prepared to end the conflict with Ukraine. Russia can take a step towards unblocking the negotiations,” wrote the Ukrainian president in his Facebook account.
“Let’s see which way the Kremlin chooses,” Zelensky said, adding that Ukraine has been waiting for a long time for its military to return home.
Russia, which did not participate in court hearings, contends that the court has no jurisdiction to examine the case or conduct arbitration between Moscow and Kiev.