Crimean court places half the FSB's captured Ukrainian sailors under arrest. They face up to six years in prison for ‘entering Russia’ illegally.
On the first day in the trial against the 24 Ukrainian sailors captured after trying to pass through the Kerch Strait, a Russian court placed half the defendants under arrest until at least January 25. The men face up to six years in prison for allegedly crossing the Russian border illegally. The rest of the sailors (except for the three hospitalized wounded crewmen) are being held at a military compound in Kerch, though a Novaya Gazeta reporter says they’re at a temporary detention center.
A few dozen Crimean Tatar activists rallied in support of the sailors, outside the courthouse, where there was a strong police presence. Kyiv considers these sailors to be POWs, saying they therefore cannot be tried in a Russian criminal court, but Moscow has ignored this argument. A top official in Crimea, meanwhile, has suggested exchanging the sailors for unspecified prisoners in Ukraine.
Kyiv has confirmed claims by Russia’s Federal Security Service that multiple Ukrainian national security agents were among the captured sailors. The FSB later published videos showing the interrogation of three crewmen, where one man says he “knowingly ignored” instructions from Russia’s Coast Guard and “was aware” of the Ukrainian ships’ “provocative nature.” Officials in Kyiv suspect these testimonies were given under duress. On the evening of November 27, the FSB said it had recovered a document from the sailors that allegedly describes a “secret” trip to Berdyansk.