Kerch crisis: Ukraine insists that Russia violated fundamental principle of maritime law.

At the hearing in the case over the detention of Ukrainian naval vessels and servicemen in November 2018, Oksana Zolotariova, Director of the International Law Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Head of Delegation, Agent of Ukraine, stressed that Russia had violated the fundamental principle of maritime law: immunity of warships guaranteed by the UNCLOS.

“This means that the Ukrainian Navy ships ‘Berdyansk’, ‘Nikopol’, and ‘Yany Kapu’ are the embodiment of our sovereignty and deserve respect as such. However, Russia does not respect international law. Nor does it respect Ukraine's sovereignty. And in this case, it does not respect the immunity of warships of Ukraine – a universally recognized principle of international law. Today, here, we protect not only Ukraine but also the entire international law and order at sea,” Zolotariova said, an Ukrinform correspondent reports from The Hague.

Ukraine believes in international law, she stressed.

“When the rules of international law are violated, we resort to peaceful means of settling disputes seeking justice and responsibility. That is why Ukraine appealed to this Court of Arbitration,” the official said.

According to Zolotariova, this case is being considered for the sake of 24 Ukrainian sailors who suffered as a result of Russia's contempt for international law.

“Russia imprisoned them for nine and a half months, holding them far away from their families. Russia treated them like criminals, putting in the infamous Lefortovo prison in appalling conditions and forcing them to sit in cages in Russian courts. My whole country and the whole world were watching these horrors. This case is about courageous Ukrainian sailors. I ask you as arbitrators, hearing the legal arguments of the parties this week, to remember the names of these guys ... They deserve justice," said the Agent of Ukraine and read out the names of 24 Ukrainian sailors.

On October 11, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague started hearing in the case Ukraine v. Russia over the detention of Ukrainian naval vessels and servicemen in November 2018.

The Russian Federation delivered its first round of oral arguments yesterday, October 11. Today, October 12, Ukraine delivers its first round of oral arguments. The second round of oral arguments will be delivered on October 14 and 15. If required, a further session of the hearing will be conducted on October 16, 2021.

On November 25, 2018, off the coast of the occupied Crimea, Russian border guards fired on and seized three Ukrainian warships and detained 24 sailors. The servicemen were accused of illegally crossing the Russian border (the punishment under this article is up to six years in prison). Ukraine considers the incident a violation of the immunity of warships.

On May 25, 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Russia to immediately release all sailors and allow them to return to Ukraine, as well as to return the ships.

On September 7, a 35-to-35 prisoner swap took place between Ukraine and Russia, during which, in particular, 24 captured sailors were released.

On November 18, 2019, the Russian Federation handed over "Berdyansk" and "Nikopol" ships and "Yany Kapu" tugboat to Ukraine in the Black Sea waters. On November 20, they arrived in the port of Ochakiv.

Photos courtesy of Iryna Drabok

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