Posted on Jan 24, 2019
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has officially demanded that Russia treat Ukrainian sailors captured in the Kerch Strait in accordance with the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Ukrinform has reported.
This is stated in the PACE resolution titled "The escalation of tensions around the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and threats to European security," which was adopted in Strasbourg, an Ukrinform correspondent said.
The resolution was supported by 103 delegates, 16 abstained, and three voted against the document.
This is the first international document that officially recognizes the status of Ukrainian servicemen captured in the Kerch Strait as prisoners of war and calls on Moscow to immediately release them.
"The Assembly urges the Russian Federation to immediately release the Ukrainian servicemen and ensure they are granted the necessary medical, legal and/or consular assistance as prisoners of war in accordance with relevant provisions of international humanitarian law," the resolution says.
The PACE also calls on Russia to ensure freedom of passage in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.
"The Parliamentary Assembly is deeply concerned about the escalation of tensions between the Russian Federation and Ukraine in the region of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, which culminated on 25 November 2018 when three Ukrainian warships were maneuvering from Odesa, on the Ukrainian Black Sea coast, to the city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov," the document reads.
The PACE condemned the use of military force by Russia against Ukrainian warships and their crews. .
At the same time, the Assembly called on the Russian and Ukrainian sides to respect both the Treaty on the Use of the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait and to refrain from any further steps which might aggravate the legal disputes between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, escalate the conflict and threaten security in the wider region.
The resolution expresses great concern about the construction by Russia of the bridge over the Kerch Strait, which it considers illegal and another breach of Ukraine's sovereignty, as well as about Russia's policy regarding the selective search of Ukrainian and international ships, which hinder navigation to and from the Sea of Azov.
The Assembly supported the proposal by the European Parliament that the mandate of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which covers the entire territory of Ukraine, including maritime areas, also covers the new area of tensions in and around the Sea of Azov.
In addition, the resolution supports the proposal, made by Germany and France, that third country observers monitor shipping traffic and guarantee freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait.
The PACE also reaffirms its commitment to earlier resolutions on the political consequences of Russian aggression against Ukraine and in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state.
On November 25, 2018, Russian border ships fired on and seized in the Kerch Strait three Ukrainian vessels that were moving from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol. A total of 24 Ukrainian sailors were captured. They currently stay in Moscow's prisons. All of them declared themselves prisoners of war.
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