In the tug-of-war between Moscow and Kiev over 24 Ukrainian naval crew members detained in Russia, the chief of the Ukrainian Navy has offered himself in exchange for their release.
“It breaks my heart when I see my soldiers illegally detained by Russia,” Admiral Ihor Voronchenko told Thursday’s edition of Germany’s popular Bild tabloid.
Voronchenko said he would be prepared to go to a Russian jail in their place if President Vladimir Putin released the 24 men. The crew members face trial in Russia and could be sentenced to long prison terms for border violation.
The Russian Coastguard denied Ukrainian ships passage through the Straits of Kerch off the annexed Crimean peninsula to the Sea of Azov, seizing the ships and arresting the crew members.
Since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, Moscow considers the strait to be Russian territory.
The incident has inflamed tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
Meanwhile, the mothers of the detained Ukrainians announced that they wanted to contact Chancellor Angela Merkel directly for support.
“The German chancellor is very much appreciated in Ukraine and we know that she has influence on Putin,” one of the mothers was quoted by Bild as saying.
“We hope that she will work for our sons and that they will finally be allowed to return home. That’s why we’re going to write a letter to her,” they told Bild.