30 Jan 2020 13:06

Ukrainian sailors' lawyer describes case suspension by Russia as 'procedural loophole', insists that case be terminated

MOSCOW. Jan 30 (Interfax) - The inquiry into the criminal case of the Ukrainian sailors, who were detained in the Kerch Strait in November 2018, has been suspended due to the sailors' inability to come to Russia, the sailors' lawyer Nikolai Polozov told Interfax.

"The inquiry has been suspended on the basis of Clause 3, Part 1, Article 208 of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code, which says that the location of the defendant is known but his or her participation in the investigative procedures is impossible," Polozov said.

According to the investigator's resolution studied by Polozov, the sailors are in Ukraine but they are recommended against visiting Russia.

He described the decision to suspend the case as "a procedural loophole."

"This kind of investigators' decision is inadmissible. This is a procedural loophole, which means that the case may resume any time and the sailors may be put on the wanted list as they still have the status of defendants. We will be considering our defense strategy in order to achieve the termination of the case," the lawyer said.

The investigator's resolution that suspended the inquiry will soon be appealed in the Prosecutor General's Office and, if necessary, in court, Polozov said.

The Yany Kapu tugboat and the Berdyansk and Nikopol artillery boats sailed from Odesa to Mariupol and their crews were detained by Russian border guards as a result of an armed incident in the Kerch Strait area on November 25, 2018.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled on May 25, 2019 that Russia must free the Ukrainian sailors and hand over the ships to Ukraine.

Russia charged 24 Ukrainian sailors with "conspiracy to illegally cross the border by means of violence or the threat to use violence." The sailors returned to Ukraine on September 7, 2019, when Russia and Ukraine swapped captives.

The Ukrainian ships accompanied by the Russian Coast Guard left the Kerch waters for the Black Sea on November 17, 2019. They were handed over to Ukraine on November 18.