The hearing concerning Russia's detention of Ukrainian naval vessels and servicemen in the Kerch Strait back in November 2018 has started in the Hague court of Peace Palace.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration established under the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea will hear the first round of oral arguments of the Russian Federation on Monday, October 11. The next day, on October 12, Ukraine will present its first round of oral arguments within the framework of the arbitration it has instituted.
The hearing will take place in a hybrid format, with some of the members of the Parties’ delegations and some of the members of the Arbitral Tribunal joining in person and others by videoconference.
The opening statement made by each Party’s Agent in the first round of oral pleadings will be webcast on the internet via live-streaming, the Permanent Court of Arbitration reported.
The second round of oral arguments will be delivered on October 14 and 15. If required, a further session of the hearing will be conducted on October 16, 2021.
Background of the Dispute
The arbitral proceedings were instituted on 1 April 2019 when Ukraine served on the Russian Federation a Notification and Statement of Claim under Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Notification and Statement of Claim refers to a dispute concerning the detention of Ukrainian naval vessels and servicemen.
About the seizure of Ukrainian vessels and sailors by Russia
On November 25, 2018, off the coast of the occupied Crimea, Russian border guards fired on and seized three Ukrainian warships and detained 24 sailors. The servicemen were accused of "illegally crossing the Russian border" (the punishment under this article is up to six years in prison). Ukraine considers the incident a violation of the immunity of warships.
On May 25, 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Russia to immediately release all sailors and allow them to return to Ukraine, as well as to return the ships.
On September 7, a 35-to-35 prisoner swap took place between Ukraine and Russia, during which, in particular, 24 captured sailors were released.
On November 18, 2019, the Russian Federation handed over "Berdyansk" and "Nikopol" ships and "Yani Kapu" tugboat to Ukraine in the Black Sea waters. On November 20, they arrived in the port of Ochakiv.