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Russia to return detained warships to Ukraine

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Moscow will return Ukrainian naval vessels it has held for a year as it prepares for a summit to try to resolve the wider dispute between the two countries, Interfax news agency reported on Sunday.

“According to agreements with the Ukrainian side, three Ukrainian ships will be withdrawn from the port of Kerch to an approved temporary point,” Russian border intelligence officials told the agency.

The return of the ships will take place on Monday, officials said.

In November last year, Russia seized two armed boats from Ukraine and a tugboat as it headed through the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway that gives access to the Azov Sea used by Ukraine and Russia.

Russia captured 24 Ukrainian sailors at the time, but sent them home in September as part of a prisoner exchange.

The French presidency announced Friday a summit of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in Paris on December 9 to discuss ways to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

But Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov did not set a date for the summit in an interview on Russian television on Sunday.

He said the summit was “still under discussion, but certainly this year.”

It was not clear when the interview was recorded.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists has killed 13,000 people since it erupted in 2014, a month after Moscow annexed Crimea. Ukrainians and Westerners accuse Moscow of backing separatists in the east militarily and financially, and of effectively controlling the region. But she denies it.

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