The captured sailors were repatriated in September 2019 as part of a prisoner swap with Russia. The ships, on the other hand, remained in Russia. None of them were particularly large or powerful: Berdyansk and Nikopol were so-called Gyurza-M-class “artillery gunboats.” Each was just 75 feet long, displaced 54 tons, and was armed with a 30-millimeter cannon, short-range surface to air missiles, and a pair of anti-tank guided missiles. These are not the biggest, baddest ships around. They are for doing things like going after smugglers. As Navy Technology explains more comprehensively, the ships were designed to:

...conduct patrols in harbours, rivers, lakes, territorial waters and isolated areas. Other missions include protection of borders and river ports of Ukraine, assistance to aircraft or vessels in distress, and combating illegal migration, piracy and smuggling in the Danube river and the waters of the Black Sea-Azov basin.

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Yany Kapu was a tugboat.

Importantly, all three ships were equipped with at least one toilet.

The tugboat Yany Kapu towed back to Ukraine. In addition to the missing toilets the ships propulsion was also apparently ruined.
The tugboat Yany Kapu towed back to Ukraine. In addition to the missing toilets the ships propulsion was also apparently ruined.
Photo: Arkhip Vereshchagin (Getty)
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All three ships were released last week. Reuters quoted Ukrainian navy chief Vice Admiral Ihor Voronchenko telling Ukrainian television that the retrieval process was slow going:

“They (the ships) do not go on their own. The Russians ruined them - even took off lamps, power outlets and toilets. We will show the whole world the Russian barbarism towards them.”

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The Ukrainian Navy was equally blunt, and described the ships as returned in “ruined” condition.

Ukrainian activists bring what they called as Humanitarian aid for Russians during the prank rally in front of the Russian embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, 25 November 2019.
Ukrainian activists bring what they called as Humanitarian aid for Russians during the prank rally in front of the Russian embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, 25 November 2019.
Photo: Sergii Kharchenko (Getty)
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In response to the toilet theft, Ukrainians organized what they called “Humanitarian Aid for Russians,” dropping off donated commodes in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev.

Russia uses its military might to bully almost all of its neighbors, even relatively peaceful Sweden and Japan. It’s a political magic trick, with bombers and warships executing a sleight of hand. Pay attention to the latest provocation, and not how militarily weak Russia actually is.

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So, let that be a lesson to the rest of the world. The Russian military will take your ships, and then it’ll take your lamps and toilets.

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Whatever it plans on doing with used toilets is anyone’s guess.