Russia rejects U.S. call to release Ukrainian ships, sailors

Russian court to detain Ukrainian sailors for 2 months

Russia on Friday rejected a United States call to release ships and sailors, saying it could not take precedence over the country’s justice system, but added that the Kremlin remained interested in a top-level meeting with Washington.

The U.S. on Thursday said that a meeting between presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, would not be held until Russia released three Ukrainian navy vessels and their crews, seized last month off Crimea.

“Of course, such a position cannot be grounds for violating the course of legal proceedings and the investigation that is underway against those who violated Russia’s state borders,” Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call.

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Russia detained the vessels’ combined crew of 24 last month and accused them of illegally entering Russian waters. Ukraine said Russia captured the two small gunboats and one tugboat illegally and accused Moscow of military aggression.

Putin and Trump were due to have an extended meeting at a G20 summit in Argentina two weeks ago, but Trump cancelled after the naval incident.

Peskov said the Kremlin remained ready to organize a future meeting between Putin and Trump, as well as at other levels.

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“We remain convinced that this meeting is equally necessary for Moscow as well as for Washington,” he said.