Russian/Crimean POW captain escapes from Ukraine

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
Captain of the seized Crimea-registered vessel "Nord" Volodymyr Horbenko has reportedly fled to Russian-occupied Crimea; Ukrainian border guards are now checking how he crossed the border after he had been released on bail with a ban on visits to Crimea.

"He has not crossed any border sections or administrative border with occupied Crimea, or the checkpoints on the contact line [with Russian-occupied Donbas] – officially, he has not gone outside the controlled part of Ukraine," aide to the Chairman of the State Border Service of Ukraine Oleh Slobodyan said.

Answering a question whether Horbenko could have left the territory of Ukraine with another ID document, the State Border Service's representative replied: "We are now trying to find out how he might have entered occupied Crimea."

As UNIAN reported earlier, Ukrainian border guards on March 25, 2018, detained the Nord fishing vessel in the Sea of Azov. The vessel was registered in the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea, it was flying the flag of Russia. There were 10 crew members on board, they all had passports of citizens of the Russian Federation. Horbenko, a former citizen of Ukraine, acquired Russian citizenship after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.

The State Border Service said the crew members had violated the procedure for leaving the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.

The captain was accused of committing criminal offenses under Part 1 of Article 249 and Part 2 of Article 321-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (illegal fishing and violation of the procedure for entering and leaving the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine).

On April 6, 2018, Kherson's city court placed him into custody. Later, he was released on bail worth UAH 35,240, or about US$1,250, with a ban on visits to Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Nord vessel was seized and transferred to the National Agency of Ukraine for finding, tracing and management of assets derived from corruption and other crimes (Asset Recovery and Management Agency, or ARMA) and later put up for sale.

On July 18, 2018, deputy head of the Ukrainian-based Prosecutor’s Office for Crimea Yehor Rebrov said that the Nord crew could freely return to Crimea with Ukrainian passports issued before the Russian occupation of the peninsula. At the same time, captain Volodymyr Horbenko was facing five years in prison.

In August 2018, the prosecutor's office completed a pretrial investigation into the captain's case, which was heard by Kyiv's district court.

In January 2019, lawyer of the captain Maksym Mohylnytsky announced that his client had disappeared in mainland Ukraine. He alleged the involvement of the Ukrainian special services. Ukraine's SBU Security Service in turn said it had nothing to do with Horbenko's disappearance.

On February 11, 2019, it became known that Horbenko was in Russia-occupied Crimea.

He gave an interview to Russia's Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, where he said he had "legally crossed the border with his Russian passport."

Answering a question from an UNIAN correspondent in the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian president, said: "I will not comment on this. The main thing is that he is at home, the main thing is that he is in Crimea. This is the main thing, but probably later we will either find out details or not, but I repeat once again: the result speaks for itself."

"You know – this is all done through diplomatic channels, so this issue probably needs to be addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," he added.
Captain of seized Nord vessel reportedly flees to Crimea, Ukrainian border guards checking details

SIMFEROPOL, February 11. /TASS/. Captain of Russia’s arrested Nord fishing vessel Vladimir Gorbenko, who was under investigation in Ukraine, has returned to Crimea, the Komsomolskaya Pravda Crimea newspaper reported, citing the captain.

"There were no restrictions preventing me from going back home. I legally crossed the border using my Russian passport. I arrived in Kerch in the evening, when everybody was at home and they were all happy to see me. I just climbed the stairs and rang the doorbell. My daughters and wife were stunned, naturally," Gorbenko told the paper.

A week ago, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry issued a nationwide alert for Vladimir Gorbenko who had broken contact with his Ukrainian lawyers on January 26.

Nord vessel issue

In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Service detained a fishing vessel flying the Russian flag in the Sea of Azov, whose crew includes ten Russian nationals. The vessel’s captain was charged under the Ukrainian Criminal Code’s article on "violating the entry and exit rules to Ukraine’s occupied territory" and illegal fishing. On April 10, the Kherson City Court released Gorbenko on bail, while other Russian sailors were fined.

Two of the crew members managed to leave Ukraine but the other seven were prevented from leaving the country with Russian passports as Kiev considers Crimean residents to be Ukrainian citizens. However, on October 30, Kiev handed the sailors over to Russia in exchange for seven Ukrainian crew members from the YaMK-0041 and YaOD-2105 ships, detained for illegal fishing off Crimea’s coast.
Captain of Nord fishing vessel returns to Russia from Ukraine

Gorbenko at home in Crimea with his family

His fishing vessel, the "Nord", under arrest in Ukraine

The seizure by Ukraine of the "Nord" set off the subsequent chain of events, where Russia retaliated by detaining and searching commercial ships in the Azov sea headed to Ukraine, and arresting Ukrainian fishing boats there.

There were increasing confrontations between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Back in September, Ukrainian border guards filmed a Russian Coast Guard cutter aggressively approaching them in Azov
and later a Russian Su-27 buzzed Ukrainian ships there also

It all eventually culminated in November 26th, when three Ukrainian Navy vessels (a tanker and two gunboats) allegedly attempted to sail into Azov under Russia's new Crimea Bridge, despite claimed orders to stop from the Russians, who then rammed the Ukrainian ships
and captured them after a brief shootout: Russian special forces storm three Ukrainian Navy ships sailing through disputed waters off Crimea

The captured Ukrainian vessels anchored in Crimea

One of the gunboats, the "Berdyansk" showing damage from the engagement with the Russians

FSB agent guards some of the captured sailors in a Moscow courtroom

All of them had their trial detention extended in January: Russia extends detention of captured Ukrainian sailors

I think Kiev may have hoped to exchange Gorbenko for some of them. But, not anymore, clearly...

Not sure WTF is going on over there... Some in Russia now suspicious of Gorbenko, think the Ukrainians let him go because they "turned" him, to spy and such for them. But, that makes no sense. He'd be useless as a spy, he is just a fisherman, he has no access to anywhere important...

More likely, he just evaded the SBU agents who were supposed to keep surveillance on him, escaped, found a corrupt border official (no shortage of those in either country) and bribed his way over he border.

Embarrassing as hell for Ukraine, totally. But, it is what it is lol
Jul 2011

Ukrainian sailors Serhiy Tsybizov (left), Andriy Opyshko (center), and Roman Mokryak attend a court hearing in Moscow on February 12.

A Moscow court on February 12 upheld the extension of the pretrial detention of four of 24 Ukrainian sailors detained by Russian forces along with their three naval vessels in November near the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Last month, the Lefortovo court in Moscow extended the pretrial detention of the sailors, who are charged with illegal border crossing, until April 24 and April 26.

On February 7, the court rejected the appeals lodged by four of the sailors against the extension of their pretrial detentions.

The appeals of the other 16 Ukrainian sailors from the group will be assessed in the coming days.

Russia has held the Ukrainian sailors since its forces fired on, boarded, and seized their vessels near the Kerch Strait on November 25.

Moscow claims the Ukrainian vessels illegally entered Russian territorial waters near Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia occupied and took over in 2014.

The sailors face up to six years in prison if convicted.

The United States and other Western countries have called for the Ukrainian sailors' release, calling their detainment illegal.
Moscow Court Upholds Prolongation Of Ukrainian Sailors' Pretrial Detentions

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