Ukraine ports 'partially unblocked' by Russia, Kiev says

Russia still inspecting ships at passage

By NATHAN HODGE, CNN
AFP/Getty Images via CNN

A Ukrainian soldier patrols aboard a military boat called "Dondass" while moored in Mariupol, Sea of Azov port on Nov. 27, 2018.

(CNN) - Russia has partially unblocked Ukraine's ports on the Azov Sea, allowing ship traffic though the Kerch Strait, Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Volodymyr Omelyan said Tuesday.

In a statement posted on the ministry website, Omelyan said Russia had lifted some restrictions on movement to and from the Azov Sea ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol.

"Vessels are making their way to the entrance and exit through the Kerch Strait toward the Ukrainian ports," he said. "The vessels are stopped by the Russian side, they are still inspecting, but traffic has been partly restored."

According to the statement, 17 ships are waiting at the exit of the Azov Sea, and another nine are at berths in the ports.

Russia and Ukraine vessels engaged in a confrontation on November 25 around the Kerch Strait, which links the Azov Sea and the Black Sea. Russia rammed and fired on Ukrainian naval vessels, subsequently capturing three ships and detaining 24 service members.

Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days in several regions around the country in response, and has barred entry to male Russian nationals aged 16 to 60 for the duration of the state of emergency.

Ukraine says Russia had blocked traffic around the Kerch Strait, but Russia says the passage has been operating as usual, except for weather-related delays.

In the statement Tuesday, the Ukrainian minister expressed hope that Ukrainian ports will be completely unblocked, and that the next step will be the release of Ukrainian sailors.

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