“As stated by the European Council on 13 December, the EU requests the immediate release of all detained Ukrainian seamen as well as the return of the seized vessels and free passage of all ships through the Kerch Strait,” the documents reads.
The officials sanctioned include the head and deputy head of the border directorate of Russian federal security service for the Republic of Crimea and City of Sevastopol, three commanding officers of Russian border patrol boats and an anti-submarine ship “which actively participated in actions that prevented Ukrainian vessels from accessing their coastline on the Sea of Azov,” two heads of service of Russian control points, and a Russian armed forces commander responsible for military forces in the region, including the illegally annexed Crimea and Sevastopol.
“These new listings have been adopted by the Council as a response to the escalation in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov and the violations of international law by Russia, which used military force with no justification,” the press release reads.
The Council also extended the validity of these restrictive measures for further six months, until September 15, 2019. The Council removed one deceased person from the list (self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) leader Alexander Zakharchenko). The measures now apply to a total of 170 persons and 44 entities.
It also says that the EU measures in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine include economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy, currently in place until 31 July 2019 and restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until 23 June 2019.
On November 25, 2018, Russian border guards used weapons to stop three Ukrainian naval vessels, the Yany Kapu tug and the Berdiansk and the Nikopol armored gunboats, which were traveling from Odesa to Mariupol in the Kerch Strait. The vessels were escorted to Kerch.
Ukraine called the border guards’ actions unlawful and accused Moscow of violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and a treaty between Ukraine and Russia on cooperation in using the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.
Since March 2014, the EU has begun to impose restrictive measures against Russia. As noted in the EU institutions, these measures are applied “in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilization of the situation in Ukraine.”