Editor's Note: This article has been updated on January 16 to include the latest trial details.
A Moscow court has ruled to extend the pretrial detention of the 24 Ukrainian naval officers captured in the November 25 attack near the Kerch Strait, according to Hromadske’s correspondent from the courtroom. They will all remain in custody until April 24.
Photo credit: HROMADSKE
The sailors were tried in six groups of four.
The court hearing was closed, as requested by the Russian security service (FSB,) but journalists and relatives were allowed in for the announcement of the decision. The relatives were prohibited from seeing their detained sailors before the trial by the FSB.
The navy officers’ lawyers asked for the case to be heard in a military court, as the defendants recognize themselves as prisoners of war, however the judge rejected the request.
The FSB investigators requested that the detention period be prolonged, allegedly because the sailors could evade the investigation. The lawyers, however, have stated that the investigators were unable to substantiate these claims.
The sailors fully support their lawyers. They have not answered any questions that have no connection to their names or rank, referring to the Geneva convention’s provisions for prisoners of war.
Ukraine insists that the sailors are prisoners of war, and therefore cannot be tried, held in pre-trial detention or sentenced as political prisoners.
On December 20, Russian President Putin stated that an exchange involving the captured sailors may be considered after the criminal case has been completed.