Russia is a peace-loving country and friendly towards Ukraine – that is why on November 18 the Kremlin decided to return to Ukraine three warships captured a year ago in the Kerch Strait. That is how Russian politicians and political analysts described the security service FSB’s announcement about returning the to the Ukrainian Navy. This move once again demonstrated Russia’s rejection of violence in its relations with Ukraine and Moscow’s good will in closing its eyes to “Kyiv provocations” they said.

In November 2018 Russian military rammed into a Ukrainian naval ships in the Kerch Strait, opened fire and hijacked all three ships and crew. In September of this year the captured Ukrainian sailors returned home as part of an exchange of prisoners between Kyiv and the Kremlin, Moscow however kept the ships, saying they were being “investigated”.

Russia returned the ships on November 18, handing them over to Ukraine on the high seas, three days before the first hearings of the UN International Tribunal in the case of Russia violating the immunity of the Ukrainian ships and their crew.

The return of Ukraine’s captured ships had nothing to do with Russian “good will”. Kyiv began work on the sailors’ and ships’ release from the first day they were captured by Russian security forces. In January of this year Ukraine submitted its first lawsuit against Russia to the European Court of Human Rights and in April appealed to the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. In record short time, the Tribunal issued an interim decision ordering Russia to immediately release the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors and return Ukraine’s captured ships.

Along wit these lawsuits, the international community enforced additional restrictive measures against Russia for its aggressive maritime policy. In March 2019 the US Treasury Department, followed by Canada and the European Union, sanctioned six individuals and eight companies involved in the unprovoked FSB attack on Ukrainian ships. These sanctions would be in place until the Kremlin releases the captured sailors and ships to Ukraine.

Although Russia complied with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea order and returned the ships, it nevertheless decided to deliver a final zinger to Ukraine. According to Ukrainian Navy commander Ihor Voronchenko, the returned ships were stripped bare, even the toilets had been removed.

StopFake has debunked several Russian fakes concerning Ukraine’s naval activities in the Black and Azov seas, such as Ukraine not having any right to the Kerch Strait, or that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea decision was illegitimate