17 Feb 2020 20:40

Ukrainian Border Guard head: Ukrainian fishermen detained by Russians set sail with violations, ship's owner facing fine

KYIV. Feb 17 (Interfax) - There has been no proof so far that the Ukrainian citizens detained on board a small-size ship by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Sea of Azov were fishing illegally; however, the ship's owner will face an administrative penalty in Ukraine for storing the boat illegally, Ukrainian Border Guard Service chief Serhiy Deineko said.

"At present, we don't have information which would clearly indicate that the citizens detained by the Russian side were engaged in illegal fishing. Therefore, we can only evaluate information which we have and which we can access," Deineko told journalists in Kyiv on Monday.

According to his information, the small-size ship did indeed leave its base on February 14, and it emerged later that the FSB border guard department for Crimea detained the ship with four Ukrainian citizens onboard.

"At present, we know all the detained citizens. We are taking all possible measures together with the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry to ensure their return," Deineko said.

The detained Ukrainians are at a pre-trial detention facility in Kerch, Crimea. A court held them administratively liable and sanctioned their arrest for ten days. "Following this, they should return to Ukraine under the established procedure," the border guard service head said.

The Russian side detained the Ukrainians on board the ship at a distance of 30 miles from the coast, he said. Deineko said that in accordance with an agreement between Ukraine and Russia, the Sea of Azov is designated as an area of shared use of water resources; therefore Russian border guards had the right to stop the ship, examine it, and check the documents.

"We only have a video released by the Russian side, where the owner of the ship allegedly admits that the Ukrainian citizens did not have identity documents and fishing permits. And, subsequently, they had proscribed fishing implements. But I emphasize that we cannot confirm this information at present," Deineko said.

The Ukrainian Border Guard Service chief also pointed out that Ukrainian border guards' technical observation point recorded the small-size vessel's departure.

"We have already established that this watercraft was stored with violations, outside the established ship bases," he said.

By his actions, the owner of the ship violated a governmental decree which clearly determines how ships depart for the sea and who permits it, Deineko said.

"Therefore, the owner of the ship will face an administrative penalty in the territory of Ukraine. It's a small fine, as our legislation is lenient, no more than 170 hryvni," he said.

On February 15, the press service for the FSB's border guard branch for Crimea said that a small-size vessel with four Ukrainian citizens without any identification documents on board had been detained in the western part of the Sea of Azov.

"The captain of the ship failed to obey a border guard detachment's legitimate demand to stop and tried to flee. Over 290 caught kalkan fish and an illegal fishing implement, a stake net, were detected during examination of the vessel. At the same time, the detainees did not have ship identification and registration documents, including a permit to fish aquatic biological resources," the FSB press service said.