Russian Federation returns three seized Ukrainian ships

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Russia has returned to Ukraine the three ships detained in the Kerch Strait area a year ago, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a commentary on November 18, TASS reported.

Trouble in Kerch Strait Russia's military had captured one tugboat and two small artillery vessels last November after the Ukrainian crews tried to gain access to the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait.

This video grab provided by the Krym 24 tv station via AP Television shows a seized Ukrainian ship, left, is towed by a Russian coast guard boat out of the port in Kerch, Crimea, with the Kerch bridge in the background, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.

Moscow never claimed that it would return the Ukrainian warships involved in the Kerch Strait incident back to Kiev, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Moscow has previously returned the Ukranian sailors on board the seized ships in a prisoner swap deal with Kiev.

The 24 Ukrainian crewmen were released on September 7 as part of a prisoner exchange between Russian Federation and Ukraine during which each side swapped 35 captives.

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Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on November 18 that the vessels had been returned after "investigators fully studied them" in an ongoing probe "on illegal border crossing" and "their further presence in Russian Federation is unnecessary". Sailors free, but still on trial A United Nations tribunal ruled in May that Russian Federation must release the sailors and ships.

Ukraine has been pushing for their return as a good will gesture from Moscow ahead of a possible four-way peace summit on eastern Ukraine next month. While the relationship between Moscow and Kyiv remains tense, Zelenskiy's unexpected victory this April signaled a change in the long-running conflict.

On Friday, the French presidency announced a summit involving France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in Paris on December 9 to discuss ways to resolve the wider conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The so-called Normandy Format talks are aimed at ending the conflict.

The ships are considered passing below the Crimea bridge spanning the strait, built by Moscow to link Russian Federation to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed in 2014.

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