RUSSIA – The detained Ukrainian sailors involved in the provocation at Kerch Strait, have apparently ‘confessed’ that they were given these orders from their commanding officer.

According to news reports and the public interface of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), in a statement made on November 26th and in a related video, not yet translated into English, it was revealed that they had questioned Ukrainian servicemen who were detained following the maritime incident in the Kerch Strait.

As all confessions made to hostile or interested parties, these should be taken with some degree of skepticism. Being compelled to make a confession, especially under conditions of duress, and in fact capture when involved nominally in a military action against a semi-hostile country, raises serious questions.

That said, the FSB released  video footage of the questioning session with the following detainees:

  • 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 on board the Nikolpol boat;
  • Sergei Tsybizov, a sailor from the Nikopol.

The Ukrainian servicemen apparently confirmed that they are acting upon what, in the video, they describe as direct orders from their command prior to November 25th.  If true, it would be further evidence that the November 25th maritime incident was a pre-planned provocation.

At the same time, we must remember that we live in reality, not a morality play of goodies vs. baddies. It is very reasonable to be suspicious that the FSB has compelled these gentlemen to say whatever is necessary to make their release easier, more smooth, and it is also possible that either the specter of grievous harm or great reward was introduced, additionally.

That said, it would be highly unlikely that the maneuvers made by the Ukrainian Navy were made accidentally, or made by the ship captains themselves. This is due to the numerous warnings we can hear and see in the videos circulating – FRN ran this version and its clear that Russian sailors are giving warnings. That means the violation of Russian maritime space was not accidental.

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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, Andrei Drach, says in the interview 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.

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.

“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.

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