“NATO welcomes the decision by the Russian authorities to release Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov and Ukrainian sailors who have been in captivity since November last year. We are glad that they are back together with their loved ones”, presented a statement NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu. She said that by deciding to release the captured Ukrainians after a year of imprisonment, the Russian authorities took a step in the right direction. She called the top state officials in Moscow to fulfill other obligations under the Minsk Agreement and in the first place to release the remaining prisoners. NATO reminded the Moscow authorities that their commitment to make the utmost contribution to the investigation of the crash of MH 17 flight is equally important, as its implementation and coverage are a result of UN Security Council resolution 2166. We recall that, as reported by RFE, Ukrainian sailors were captured when they tried to cross the Kerch passage with three Navy ships, the only access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea. During that operation, the Russian Navy opened fire, injuring several Ukrainians. As for Ukrainian director Oleg Sencov, he was sentenced in Russia to 20 years in prison in 2015 for plotting terrorist acts in Crimea. The US and EU condemned it, because in their view the trial of this director was political.
Otherwise, except for the Russians who liberated the captured Ukrainians, the Ukrainian authorities did also release the captured Russians from prison. This exchange is expected to ease tensions between the two neighbors, Russia and Ukraine. Relations between the two countries deteriorated dramatically in 2014, when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and when rebellions were launched in two regions of eastern Ukraine. More than 13,000 people have been killed so far in conflicts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.