24 Ukrainian sailors the world forgot about

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On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian navy vessels were seized by Russian ships while passing through the Kerch Strait. The Kerch Strait is a section of water between Krasnodar, Russia and Crimea, a Ukrainian province invaded by Russia in March 2014. Two dozen Ukrainian sailors were captured after a Russian ship fired on and bumped into one of their boats, on purpose, and proceeded to board their ships (BBC).

November may seem like a long time ago in the news, however, these Ukrainian sailors are still in Russian custody, even after urging from The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), The United Nations (UN), and Ukraine officials to release them.

The sailors are being charged with breaching territory. Russian officials claim that the Ukrainian ships breached Russian territory in the Kerch Strait (territory that Russia seized illegally when it annexed Crimea), a claim Ukraine says is false.

The sailors were brought to a Moscow court for the first time in early January, although Ukraine says that the trial goes against the Geneva Conventions because they are being tried as civilians. Russia refuses to move the trial to a military court. Russia has extended most of the sailors’ detention time to April 26, 2019.

“We’re warriors for our country,” (ABC News) says Alena Bezyazichniy, whose son, Yuri is among the sailors captured. Alena’s husband was also caught in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, having been killed by separatists backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine.

On November 28, President Donald Trump cancelled his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina and said in a tweet, “Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting…” Trump said later that he would not meet with Putin until the sailors have been released.

Rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine have many wondering if the sailors will ever be released. Russia’s plans to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait also has some wondering what Russia’s plans are in the future, with many worried that Russia will try to seize more Ukrainian land.

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