Ukraine seizes Russian tanker in Black Sea in retaliation move

27 Juillet, 2019, 00:24 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Alexandr Ryumin  TASS

According to Ukraine official statement, tanker was involved in hostile activities (blocking Kerch Strait) during November 2018 incident, when Russian Navy and Coast Guard tried to prevent Ukrainian Navy gun boats from Strait transit, and seized several Ukrainian Navy servicemen, in violation of all agreements and laws, regulating Strait passage. The investigation found that the Neyma tanker changed its name to Nika Spirit to hide its involvement in the "illegal acts and an act of aggression that took place on November 25, 2018", Ukraine said. The tanker's crew were questioned, added TASS.

The incident is also certain to further sour relations between Kiev and Moscow, which remain blighted by Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its backing for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia's Foreign Ministry had earlier warned Ukraine that there would be consequences if any Russians were "taken hostage".

Ukraine "scrupulously respects the global law of the sea and the decisions of the United Nations tribunal on the law of the sea", the Ukrainian security services said.

Russian officials said Ukraine released crew members without charge but kept the Neyma. The Neyma had changed its name painted on the hull to "conceal its involvement in the act of aggression", it said.

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Russian ships fired on Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait on November 25 past year, sparking a major crisis amid already strained relations between the two countries.

"The crew is headed home. the vessel is in Izmail", said Russian embassy spokesman Denis Golenko to Interfax news agency. Two men in camouflaged uniforms with Ukrainian insignia were shown walking through the Russian-flagged vessel. The Ukrainian president, who was a popular comedian before he won an April election, made securing the release of the Ukrainian sailors one of his first priorities.

Zelenskiy's office had no comment on the seizure of the Russian vessel on Wednesday. Russian senator Konstantin Kosachyov said if Mr Zelensky had approved the operation, then he was "continuing the provocation" started by his predecessor Petro Poroshenko in November.

Moscow has accused the sailors of violating its maritime borders.

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