Moscow, Russian Federation — The Lefortovo court has started a hearing on the case of 24 Ukrainian naval servicemen who were detained by Russian border guards during the Kerch incident in November 2018.
"It’ll all be Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine,” said one sailor.
"God gives - we will be home soon," says Roman Mokriak, captain of the Berdyansk boat.
The servicemen say they are prisoners of war and refuse to provide any information other than their name and military title.
The prosecution asked for a private meeting, stressing that sensitive information would be revealed which could harm the outcome of the investigation–lawyers for the servicemen protested.
On November 25, 2018, Ukrainian military vessels and other ships planned to sail from the port of Odessa to Mariupol. During their course, a Russian border patrol ship intercepted and rammed a Ukrainian tugboat. When attempting to leave the Kerch Strait, Russian border guards fired upon and captured several Ukrainian ships. 24 Ukrainian servicemen on three ships were detained, two of them being officers of the State Security Service of Ukraine. Three men were injured.
The detained were accused of illegally crossing the border of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea, which is not internationally recognized. On November 29 they were taken to a Moscow prison.
On January 16, the Lefortovo Court of Moscow extended their detention to April 26, 2019.