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Germany: Russia must ‘immediately’ return Ukrainian ships and crew, rules tribunal

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The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled, in Hamburg on Saturday, that Russia must return three Ukrainian ships and the 24 crew captured off the coast of Crimea in November.

“By 19 votes to one the Russian Federation shall immediately release the Ukrainian naval vessels Berdyansk, Nikopol, and Yani Kapu and return them to the custody of Ukraine,” said Tribunal President Jin-Hyun Paik, reading the ruling.

“By 19 votes to one the Russian Federation shall immediately release the 23 Ukrainian servicemen and allow them to return to Ukraine,” he added.

Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Olena Zerkal said of the ruling, “for us this is a pure victory. That is what we asked for to the Tribunal and the Tribunal clearly stated that all our vessels and our crew should be released immediately.”

The three ships and crew were captured in the early hours of November 25, 2018, as they tried to cross the Kerch Strait, a narrow passage between Crimea and Krasnodar Krai and the only passage from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea.

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