Last year, precisely on November 25, 2018, the Russian navy captured 24 Ukraine sailors and their three vessels, when they entered the Kerch Strait. Why is this relevant today? The UN’s International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has ordered Russia to immediately release the sailors in it’s ruling yesterday.
“The Tribunal notes that any action affecting the immunity of warships is capable of causing serious harm to the dignity and sovereignty of a state and has the potential to undermine its national security,” ITLOS President Jin-Hyun Paik said.
Conflicts of interest
Russia and Ukraine has been locked in conflict ever since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and vowed to never give back the area to Ukraine. Since then, a bilateral treaty gives both Russia and Ukraine the right to use the Sea of Azov. The Kerch Strait connects the Azov Sea with the Black Sea. But it is situated between Crimea and Russia and is essential for Ukraine’s ships to access the Black Sea. Due to disputes over the waters and alleged illegal passage, 24 seamen and 3 vessels from Ukraine have been detained. This event has only escalated tensions between the former Soviet republics.
As of now, Moscow has not heeded calls from Ukraine, the European Union nor the USA to return the servicemen and impounded ships. The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that ITLOS lacked the jurisdiction to rule on the matter. Russia’s FSB security service insists that the two armed ships and tugboat had illegally entered its territorial waters. The Russian Government has stated that it has not attended the hearings and maintained that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over the incident.
“The tribunal considers it appropriate to order both parties to refrain from taking any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute.”