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Ships. NATO back to ask for moderation on crisis Strait of Kerch

Moscow-Kiev tension. Russian Commissioner for Human Rights will visit imprisoned sailors

NATO reiterated today the demand for moderate actions in the ongoing crisis between Moscow and Kiev on the Kerch Strait, calling on Russia to free the Ukrainian ships seized last November 25 and their crews arrested. The secretary-general of the Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, was called this morning on the eve of the meeting of foreign ministers from the 29 NATO member countries to be held in Brussels on December 4 and 5. "We urge calm and restraint", Stoltenberg said to reporters, adding: "Russia should release the Ukrainian ships and sailors, ensure freedom of navigation and unimpeded access to ports" in the area.

The tension between Russia and Ukraine had risen when helicopters, naval vessels and Russian planes patrolling the Strait zone intercepted and boarded three ships (Berdyansk, Nikopol and Yany Kapu) of the Ukrainian Navy, escorting them to the port of Kerch and putting the sailors on board for arrest. For Moscow it was a violation of the Russian State border as the boats entered the temporarily closed part of a section of the territorial sea of the Russian Federation and moved from the Black Sea to the Kerch Strait (see AVIONEWS). President Vladimir Putin called the "incident" a provocation, noting that among the crewmembers of Ukrainian ships that violated the Russian border were two members of the Ukrainian Bureau of Security, who were in fact responsible of this special operation. Putin pointed out in recent days that Russian border guards performed their duties to protect the State border.

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation, Tatyana Moskalkova, has also spoken on this issue today. The senior official said that this week she will go to the Lefortovo and Matrosskaya prisons where Ukrainian sailors are imprisoned: "I will visit Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina this week to make sure that seamen's rights are not violated", she told reporters.

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