18 Feb 2019 18:17

Moscow City Court excludes from consideration appeals against extension of 4 Ukrainian sailors' arrest

MOSCOW. Feb 18 (Interfax) - The Moscow City Court has returned the appeals against the extension of the arrest of four Ukrainian sailors, detained following the incident in near the Kerch Strait on November 25, 2019, to the first instance court.

"The appeals on behalf of Vyktor Bespalchenko, Vladyslav Kostyshyn, Volodymyr Lisoyi, and Volodymyr Varymez have been excluded from consideration at the court of appeals and returned to Moscow's Lefortovsky District Court in order to address shortcomings in the formalization of materials," the press service for the Moscow City Court told Interfax on Monday.

"When the shortcomings are addressed, the materials will be re-submitted to the court of appeals for consideration," the press service said.

Nikolai Polozov, the leader of the sailors' defense team, in turn, said that the reason of such a decision of the Moscow City Court was an incorrect and late translation of the ruling on the extension of the period of the arrest into Ukrainian.

"The hearing of the Moscow City Court's appellate instance regarding the fifth quartet of the Ukrainian sailors, who are prisoners of war [Vyktor Bespalchenko, Vladyslav Kostyshyn, Volodymyr Lisovyi, and Volodymyr Varymez], has ended in the withdrawal of the case from consideration for procedural reasons," he said on his Facebook account.

According to Polozov, Moscow's Lefortovsky District Court had failed to translate the ruling on the extension of the period of the arrest into Ukrainian in a proper and timely manner.

"The case will be forwarded to the Lefortovsky [District] Court to address the shortcomings and hand over the translation to the prisoners of war," the lawyer said, adding that the date of the next hearing regarding the four sailors would be appointed later.

The Moscow City Court earlier upheld the legality of the rulings on the extension of 16 Ukrainian sailors' arrest until April 24. The Moscow City Court will hear the appeals lodged by the lawyers of four more sailors against a similar ruling of the district court later.

On November 25, 2018, Russian border guards used weapons to stop three Ukrainian naval vessels, the Yany Kapu tug and the Berdyansk and the Nikopol armored gunboats, which were traveling from Odesa to Mariupol in the Kerch Strait. The vessels were then escorted to Kerch.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) said the ships entered Russia's territorial waters on orders from Kyiv and described the incident as an act of provocation coordinated by two Ukrainian Security Service officers. Russia also said that Kyiv had not duly notified it that naval vessels were planning to pass through the Kerch Strait.

Kyiv called the border guards' actions unlawful and accused Moscow of violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and a treaty between Ukraine and Russia on cooperation in using the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Courts in Simferopol and Kerch remanded the 22 sailors and two Ukrainian Security Service officials in custody. In late November, they were transferred to Moscow.

The Ukrainians are charged with "conspiracy by a group of persons or an organized group to illegally cross the border using violence or the threat to use violence." If found guilty, they could face up to six years in prison.

Kyiv refers to the detained sailors as prisoners of war. The Russian authorities say they cannot be regarded as POWs, as they are charged with a crime and Russia and Ukraine are not in a state of war or military conflict.