Russia Returns 3 Seized Ships to Ukraine, Talks About Summit

MOSCOW—Three Ukrainian naval ships that were seized by Russia nearly a year ago have been returned, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The two gunboats and a tug were taken by the Russian coast guard on Nov. 25, 2018, as they maneuvered near the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea. The Kerch Strait runs between mainland Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea.

Russia claimed the Ukrainian ships had violated procedures for transiting the strait, while the Ukrainians said they were traveling in international waters.

The Russian coast guard fired shots, then seized the ships and their crew of 24 Ukrainian sailors. The sailors were detained for 10 months and returned home in September as part of a prisoner exchange.

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. It said that regardless of the ships’ return, Ukraine will press the case against the Russian seizure of the ships in an international tribunal.

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

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