MOSCOW - A Russian court on Wednesday prolonged the detention of 24 Ukrainian sailors captured last year near Crimea, in the midst of sensitive prisoner-swap talks between the two ex-Soviet neighbors.
Moscow's Lefortovsky district court ruled that the sailors must stay in detention for an extra three months until Oct. 24. After the hearings, the sailors were escorted out of the courtroom by masked security officers as relatives and supporters applauded. Some wiped away tears.
Relatives sported yellow bracelets bearing the names of the sailors, who face up to six years in prison on charges of illegally crossing Russian borders.
In the cramped courtroom, the sailors, who have described themselves as "prisoners of war", were held in a metal-barred cage reserved for defendants.
Olena Zerkal, Ukrainian deputy foreign minister, condemned the extension of the sailors' detention, saying it only complicated "diplomats' complicated work" amid the current negotiations.
The Ukrainians have been imprisoned since their three vessels were seized off Crimea last November, the most dangerous direct clash between Russia and Ukraine in years.
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