Kyiv district court of occupied Simferopol began prosecuting 24 Ukrainian seamen captured over the weekend in a confrontation near the Kerch straight. According to the report by Anton Naumlyuk, a journalist who reports on events in occupied Crimea, Oleh Melnychuk, the commander of the Yany Kapu tugboat told his lawyer that he does not plead guilty.
“We did not violate any border, I do not consider myself guilty”, – he said.
According to Melnychuk and the rest of Ukrainian seamen, they experienced physical violence during the detention. Serhiy Tsibizov, a 21-year old sailor, also confirmed that he was under psychological pressure to provide a pre-determined testimony to his lawyer.
Roman Mokriak, commander of the Berdiansk boat, also refused to answer the questions of the Russian FSB and “confess” to crimes he didn’t commit, on video. Earlier, the Russian FSB officers put some of the seamen on camera, where they confessed to intruding into Russian waters.
Televised “confessions” of the FSB were also instrumental in the imprisonment of nine Ukrainians accused of sabotage and espionage. However, the cases were so obviously fabricated that several of them fell apart in court.
There are all grounds to conclude that Russia will fabricate the cases with the Ukrainian seamen and use them for its propaganda purposes.
On 27 November, the so-called Kyiv court of Simferopol decided to arrest 12 of the Ukrainian servicemen until 25 January 2019.
NATO on Tuesday emphasized its “full support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” noting there is no justification for Russia’s use of military force against Ukrainian ships. It urged Russia to release the Ukrainian seamen and vessels promptly.