Russia, Ukraine naval dispute lands before sea tribunal in Hamburg | News | DW | 10.05.2019
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Russia, Ukraine naval dispute lands before sea tribunal in Hamburg

Last November, Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships and captured dozens of sailors, sparking outrage in Ukraine. The case is now being heard at a UN sea tribunal in Hamburg, but Russia has vowed not to show.

A naval standoff between Russia and the Ukraine will be heard before an international sea tribunal in Hamburg, Germany on Friday.

The incident last November saw tensions between Moscow and Kyiv skyrocket after Russia fired on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait, eventually boarding the ships and detaining 24 sailors.

What will happen in court:

The hearing is taking place at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), who will hear arguments from Ukraine.

  • Ukraine argues that the navy vessels have immunity under an international maritime convention.
  • Ukraine has demanded that Moscow drop all charges against its sailors and to release them.
  • They've also called for the return of its three naval vessels.
  • Russia has refused to attend the hearings, arguing that the ITLOS doesn't have jurisdiction over "military activities."
Map depicting the Kerch Strait

What is the naval dispute about?

Last November, an incident erupted near the Kerch Strait in the first open military clash between Ukraine and Russia since 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea.

Russian coast guard ships fired on the Ukrainian vessels as they tried to pass from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea. Russia seized the Ukrainian ships and detained 24 sailors, who are being held in pretrial detention until July.

Ukraine has said its ships were located in international waters when the incident took place. Russia, however, claims that the Ukrainian ships entered Russian territorial waters without permission.

Watch video 01:52

Ukraine: Ratcheting up the tension

What is the ITLOS? The tribunal is an independent judicial body that was established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The court deals with maritime disputes and hearings are open to the public. A total of 21 judges sit on the tribunal, which is based in the German port city of Hamburg.

What happens next: The tribunal will hear the case on Friday and Saturday. The court is set to release a decision by the end of May. With Russia declining to take part in the proceedings, it not certain that they would comply with the court's findings.

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