Russia returns three seized Ukrainian ships

Russia returned three naval ships captured from Ukraine last year in the Kerch Strait, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The Russian Coast Guard seized two gun boats and a tug boat in November 2018 as the vessels maneuvered near the strait, which runs between Russia and Crimea, annexed from Ukraine.

The Coast Guard fired several shots and detained 24 Ukranian sailors for 10 months following the seizure. They were returned as part of a prisoner exchange.

Ukraine has urged for the return of the ships as a positive gesture ahead of a scheduled Dec. 9  meeting in Paris to discuss a four-way peace agreement on eastern Ukraine.

A seized Ukrainian ship is towed by a Russian Coast Guard vessel out of the port in Kerch, near the bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula, Crimea on Sunday. Russia said Monday that it returned three Ukranian naval ships captured last year.  (Reuters/Alla Dmitrieva)

A seized Ukrainian ship is towed by a Russian Coast Guard vessel out of the port in Kerch, near the bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula, Crimea on Sunday. Russia said Monday that it returned three Ukranian naval ships captured last year.  (Reuters/Alla Dmitrieva)

The plan was brokered by France and Germany and envisions autonomy for separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and amnesty for rebels.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin informed French President Emmanuel Macron about the ships' return in a phone call Monday.

Ukrainian officials said they will inspect the ships to make sure no equipment is missing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.