Two Ukrainian fishermen detained last year by Russian border guards after their boat broke down off the coast of the Crimea Peninsula have been released.
Lyudmyla Denisova, the human rights ombudsman for Ukraine, said in a post to her Facebook page on May 7 that she had been informed that Ruslan Kondratyuk and Andriy Morosov “are now on the way back to their families in the Kherson region.”
Denisova said Russian border guards detained the fishermen in September after their motorboat broke down, forcing them to land the craft in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014.
An official with the Russia-backed government in Crimea confirmed to the Russia news agency TASS that the fishermen had been released.
Lyudmila Lubina, identified as a Crimean human rights ombudsman, said a court had fined the men an undisclosed sum, although she said they had faced up to five years in prison.
Russia, meanwhile, continues to hold 24 Ukrainian seamen who were jailed after Russian border guards seized their vessels near the Kerch Strait between Russia and Crimea in a flare-up of tension in November 2018.
Moscow accused them of illegal entry into Russian territorial waters, which they deny, and they are formally charged with illegal border crossing.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea has not been recognized by the international community. The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Moscow for the seizure and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.