Published: Mon, November 18, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Russia says it will return captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday

Russia says it will return captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday

This video grab provided by the Krym 24 tv station via AP Television shows a seized Ukrainian ship, right, being towed by a Russian coast guard boat out of the port in Kerch, Crimea, on November 17, 2019.

The two gunboats and a tug were taken by the Russian coast guard on November 25, 2018, as they manoeuvred near the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea.

Russian Federation on Monday began the process of handing over three captured naval ships to Ukraine in the Black Sea, the TASS news agency cited a security source as saying. Twenty four sailors seized with the vessels were released in September as part of a prisoner swap that also included Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film director who was arrested by Russian Federation after it seized Crimea in 2014.

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.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said that the Ukrainian authorities will conduct a thorough check of the ships to make sure that no equipment is missing.

Ukraine's ministry of foreign affairs said the three captured ships were en route to the port of Odessa.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin informed French President Emmanuel Macron about the vessels' transfer in a phone call Monday.

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine will meet in Paris on December 9 in an attempt to advance efforts for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the French presidency said on Friday.

Russian Federation maintains that the Ukrainian navy committed a "provocation" near the disputed Crimea region, which Russian Federation annexed five years ago from neighbouring Ukraine to far-reaching global outcry.

France said last Friday that the so-called Normandy summit will take place in Paris on Dec 9, but Moscow has not confirmed either the plans or the date. The Minsk agreement envisages broad autonomy for the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and an amnesty for the rebels.

The summit plans are not directly tied to legislation giving Donbass a special status, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during the same news show.

The takeover of the peninsula, and Russian support for separatist militants who seized parts of eastern Ukraine at the start of a conflict that has now killed more than 13,000 people, came after pro-European protests pushed Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power in Kyiv.

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