Russia’s Federal Security Service detained three Ukrainian paratroopers at the causeway crossing of Syvash Bay in Crimea on Sept. 5, the security agency has confirmed in a statement. Ukrainian media reported the soldiers missing on Sept. 6.
Russian FSB agents arrested Oleksandr Yurov, Oleksandr Orlenko and Kostyantyn Myeshkun of Ukraine’s 79th Brigade of the Armed Forces, in a disputed area between Ukraine and the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory of Crimea. The FSB said the three had been charged with illegally crossing a border.
The paratroopers had no documents or weapons when they were detained, the FSB said. According to the security agency, the soldiers said they had wanted to “fraternize” with the Russian marines they could see on the other side of Syvash Bay, the service said.
The bay is made up of a series of interconnected shallow lagoons that separate Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast from the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, which was annexed and occupied by Russia in March 2014. There are three causeways crossing the bay, and it is not known exactly where the incident occurred.
“The decision to communicate with Russian marines occurred to (the soldiers) after they had been drinking. The following morning the Ukrainians took one melon, a bottle of vodka and some salo (a Ukrainian delicacy of cured pork fat) and went to fraternize,” the FSB’s press service said.
Ukraine has protested against the detention of its soldiers, said Yuriy Tandit, an aide to Ukraine’s Security Service chief, cited by Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Sept. 7.
“Now our main purpose is to get the guys back. They didn’t want to go there, and supposedly break the law (by crossing a border), surrender, and become someone’s hostages,” he said.
Tandit, speaking on Ukrainian television channel 112 Ukraina said that as Crimea was part of Ukraine, “there was no breaking of the law on our part.”
He also told Interfax-Ukraine that the entire situation was a Russian propaganda exercise, and that the main goal of this “information operation” was to show that we’re not as good as them.
In its account of the incident, Ukraine’s General Staff said that two cars had driven up to the border from the Autonomous Republic Crimea on the night before the soldiers were detained.
“Two cars appeared in the supposed border area from the Crimean peninsula and, probably, illegally detained our soldiers,” the General Staff wrote on its Facebook page on Sept. 6.
A military investigation into the incident has established that the servicemen finished their shift, changed into civilian clothing and, as their comrades said, went for swim in the bay.