International tribunal tells Russia to release detained Ukrainian sailors

International tribunal tells Russia to release detained Ukrainian sailors
Russian patrol craft (left) approaches Ukrainian harbor tug in the Sea of Azov (what lies inside the Kerch Strait), 25 Nov 2018. Video via Twitter

[Ed. – Assuming Russia doesn’t comply, this is one of those seemingly minor but very consequential things that accelerate the breakdown of “international order.”  If an agreement like this — to which Russia is a signatory — is unenforceable, Russia won’t be the only nation to ignore it at will.  The standoff here is an important one to watch — although I suspect we know already what the outcome will be.  Note: while there may be an argument (in my view not a strong one) that the Ukrainian vessels were in the wrong place, there is NO argument that justifies Russia seizing the ships or detaining the crew.  On that point there is no legitimate dispute.]

Moscow has been told by a maritime tribunal it must release 24 sailors that were aboard vessels it intercepted in the Kerch Strait in November 2018.

The Russian navy captured the sailors and their three vessels after opening fire on them in the strait, located between Russian-annexed Crimea and southern Russia.

The Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) said Russia must release the seamen immediately and that both countries should refrain from doing anything to aggravate relations. …

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Moscow has not heeded calls from Ukraine, the European Union nor the USA to return the sailors and impounded ships.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that ITLOS lacked the jurisdiction to rule on the matter.

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