Russia returns seized naval vessels to Ukraine

Illustration; Russian Navy file photo

Russia has begun the process of returning three seized Ukrainian Navy boats, after a year-long detention.

The gunboats Berdiansk (P175) and Nikopol (P176), and tug boat Yany Kapu were towed out of the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait, en route to mainland Ukraine.

The three vessels, with 23 sailors aboard, were first fired upon by Russian special forces and subsequently seized as they were trying to enter the Sea of Azov, a body of water shared by Ukraine and Russia.

Six Ukrainian sailors were reported to have been injured in the standoff.

The escalation of conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the Sea of Azov followed several months of tensions after Ukraine accused Russia of stopping and delaying passage of commercial vessels transiting to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea.

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