The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has seized a crucial piece of evidence for the Kerch Strait incident that took place back in November. Russia still holds 24 Ukrainian sailors that were captured after an FSB attack on a Ukrainian ship on November 25.
"The SBU, together with the Military Prosecutor's Office, have detained the Russian tanker "NEYMA," which blocked Ukraine's military ships near the Kerch Strait," a Facebook post by the SBU reads.
According to Ukraine's state border service, a tanker under the name "NIKA SPIRIT" entered the Izmail sea port, 250 km southwest of Odesa on July 25. The Ukrainian investigators established that it is the same NEYMA tanker that was used during the November attack.
Ukraine is currently preparing court documents in order to arrest the ship as a crucial piece of evidence.
According to the Russian news agency Interfax, "approximately" 15 Russian citizens were on board of the detained ship. Russia has already promised "consequences" to Ukraine.
"If this is the case of holding Russians captives, it will be classed as a gross violation of international law and the consequences will not be long in coming," Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Interfax.
According to the Russian embassy in Ukraine, the Russian sailors who were on board of the captured ship have already been sent home.
"The crew is on its way home, the vessel has remained in Izmail," a representative of the embassy was cited as saying by the spokesperson of Russia's foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova.
No other details were provided by the embassy.
However, Russian ombudsperson Tatiana Moskalkova told Russia's Interfax that 10 members of the crew were released "without any charges."
"They've been put on a bus, which will go to Moldova and [from Moldova,] they will fly into Moscow," Moskalkova's press service stated.
It is unclear whether the number of crew members originally provided by Interfax – 15 – was incorrect. According to another state media organization in Russia, Tass, there were 10-12 sailors on board of the tanker. Tass also supposed that the crew members could have come from the southern regions of Russia.
/By Maria Romanenko