The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said on November 26 that it has questioned Ukrainian servicemen who were detained following the maritime incident in the Kerch Strait.
The FSB released a video footage of the questioning session with:
- 3rd Rank Captain Vladimir Lesovoy, commander of a support vessels division of the Ukrainian South naval base (army unit A-1728);
- Andrei Drach, according to Russian officials, officer of the 7th main military intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian Security Service who had been onboard the Nikolpol boat;
- Sergei Tsybizov, a sailor from the Nikopol.
The Ukrainian servicemen confirmed that they were action upon a direct order from their command and the November 25 maritime incident was a pre-planned provocation.
“Radio requests [from Russian border guards] were deliberately ignored. There were firearms and machine guns with munitions onboard. I was aware that these were provocative actions,” Lesovoy stated adding that the formal goal was to reach Mariupol [the Sea of Azov] from Odessa [the Black Sea] through Kerch Strait.
The Urainian intelligence officer, Drach, confirmed that the Russian side was working to prevent an armed clash in the area.
“We entered Russia’s territorial waters where the Russian coastal guards warned us that we were violating Russia’s laws. They told us to leave the Russian territorial waters,” he said.
However, the Ukrainian naval group was ignoring the warnings.
“We continued to move. We were contacted by Russian ships which warned us they would open fire if we did not stop, The commander stopped the boat, and we were detained. That’s all,” Tsybizov said.
The Saker released a full translation of the testimonies (source):
I am Andrey Dratch. I am a crew member of the “Nikopol” ship of the Ukrainian Naval Forces. On 23 (November) I received a task to follow the route Odessa-Mariupol, through the Kerch Strait. Following the route to Mariupol through the Kerch Strait we entered the territorial waters of the Russian Federation, when the Coast Guard of the Russian Federation warned us that we were violating the legislation of the Russian Federation. We were repeatedly told to leave the territorial waters of the Russian Federation. While stopping for anchoring the Coast Guard warned us one more time that there is a need to leave the territorial waters of the Russian Federation and to exit to the 12-mile zone and to wait for further decisions concerning our passage through the Kerch Strait to the city of the Mariupol.
I am Vladimir Vladimirovich Lesovoy, commander of military unit 1828. Since November 22, 2018 I have been in the structure of the group of ships of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, I lead the tug “Yana Kapa” and the boats “Nikopol” and “Berdyansk”. I made a passage through the Kerch Strait. After crossing the state borders of the Russian Federation I visually watched the ships of the Border Service of the FSB of the Russian Federation and I consciously ignored their requests to stop over the radio station. At the time of the passage small arms and machine guns with ammunition were onboard. I was aware that the actions of the Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait had a provocative character. I was following orders and planned to carry out the transfer of ships from the port of Odessa to the port of Mariupol.
I am Sergey Andreevich Tsybizov. On Friday morning we left Odessa at 08:00 and headed to Berdyansk through the Kerch Strait. When we approached the Kerch Strait, we entered the waters of Russia, after which we were given the command to stop and wait for further orders. Before fire was opened, two green flares could be seen. We continued to move on “Nikopol” and then Russian ships contacted us. Our commander decided to stop the boat. We were taken off the boat and that’s all.
The FSB further revealed that there were two Ukrainian intelligence officers were coordinating the provocation on board of the ships.
“The Ukrainian warships entered Russia’s territorial waters at a direct order from the Kiev authorities. The warships trespassed into the Russian territorial water that had enjoyed this status even before Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The provocation was coordinated by two Ukrainian Security Service officers who were aboard the Ukrainian ships,” the FSB said in a statement.