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Russian court to consider prolonging pretrial detention of Ukrainian sailors

Ukraine military ships on Navy Day. (Ввласенко/Wikimedia Commons)

A court in Moscow says it will consider a request by the Russian Investigative Committee to prolong the pretrial detention of 24 Ukrainian sailors detained by Russian forces who attacked three Ukrainian navy vessels in the Black Sea in November.

The Lefortovo District Court’s spokeswoman, Yekaterina Krasnova, said on January 11 that the court would consider the committee’s request on January 15.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has asked for a court order to extend their detention until April 26.

Russia has held the Ukrainian sailors since capturing them and seizing their three ships near the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Moscow claims the Ukrainian vessels illegally entered Russian territorial waters near Crimea, which Russia seized and illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The court’s announcement comes a day after the European Union reiterated its call on Moscow to release all Ukrainian citizens, including the sailors, that Brussels says have been “illegally detained” by Russia and within Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimea Peninsula.

Russia occupied Crimea in March 2014 — sending in military forces and quickly staging a referendum that has dismissed by more than 100 countries as bogus.

Moscow also backs pro-Russia separatists in a war against Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.