Moscow May Swap Ukrainian Seamen For Russian Nationals After Ukrainian Election - Reports

Moscow May Swap Ukrainian Seamen for Russian Nationals After Ukrainian Election - Reports

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 11th January, 2019) Moscow may exchange Ukrainian seafarers, detained after the Kerch Strait incident, for Russian nationals, who are currently jailed in the neighboring country, after the presidential election, which will be held in Ukraine later this year, Russian media reported on Friday, citing a high-ranked diplomatic source and sources in the Ukrainian government and parliamentary circles.

The Izvestiya newspaper reported that the lower house of the Russian parliament told it that the exchange process would begin only after the verdict to the Ukrainian seamen is rendered.

"A lot depends on the Ukrainian side and the extent of Kiev's readiness to make agreements. However, we should understand that it is impossible to exchange the sailors now. They are not prisoners of war as Kiev tries to depict them. This means that we should wait for the court ruling after which the exchange can be discussed. There are a lot of Russian nationals in Ukrainian jails who should be released.

However, it is unlikely before the election, because [Ukrainian President] Petro Poroshenko will immediately begin showing this as his own achievement," one of the sources told the newspaper.

In November, three ships of the Ukrainian Navy Berdyansk, Nikopol, and Yany Kapu crossed the Russian border, entered Russian territorial waters that were temporarily closed, and began moving toward the Kerch Strait, which serves as the entrance into the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian vessels and their crew were detained by the Russian authorities after failing to respond to a lawful demand to stop.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a provocation, noting that there were members of the Ukrainian security service, who were in charge of the operation, on board the Ukrainian vessels.

The Ukrainian presidential election is scheduled for March 31, 2019.

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