- Ukraine has seized a Russian tanker it says was used in a 2018 clash in the Kerch Strait that led to Russia detaining 24 Ukrainians.
- Ukraine says Russia’s tanker blocked Ukrainian tankers from entering the strait before opening fire on and capturing two Ukrainian ships.
- Ukraine said that the ship is evidence and that "a petition to a court for its arrest is being prepared."
- Russia’s foreign ministry responded by warning that there would be "consequences" if any Russians were taken "hostage," but a representative for the ship owner told Russian media that the crew was returning home
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Ukraine seized a Russian tanker that it said parked itself sideways in November 2018 to prevent Ukrainian vessels from entering the Kerch Strait, escalating tensions and leading to Russia seizing two Ukranian vessels and 24 Ukrainians. Negotiations to free the Ukrainians are still ongoing.
Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said on Thursday that it seized Russia’s Neyma tanker as it was moored in a Ukrainian Black Sea port on Wednesday.
"The Ukraine security service and military prosecutors’ office detained (a) Russian tanker, the Neyma, which had blocked Ukrainian warships in the Kerch strait," the statement said, according to Reuters.
Russia’s foreign ministry responded by warning that there would be "consequences" if any Russians were taken "hostage," the Russia’s RIA news agency reported.
But a representative for the ship owner told RIA that the crew is safe and returning home.
State Border Guard Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS
Ukraine claimed that the ship had been using the name Nika Spirit "to cover its involvement in illegal actions" but that it was able to identify it as the Neyma. Russia’s foreign ministry said that the ship’s name had changed, RIA reported.
Ukraine said the ship is evidence and that "a petition to a court for its arrest is being prepared."
In November 2018, Russian ships fired on Ukraine’s ships before seizing the vessels and detaining the 24 Ukrainians onboard.
Russia said at the time that it was not notified of the Ukrainian ships’ plans and that they dismissed orders to stop.
A video of a Russian tanker blocking the strait can be seen here:
The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and it separates Russia from Crimea, a Ukranian territory that Russia annexed in 2014.
In Moscow, senior Russian lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov described Ukraine‘s detention of the tanker as "absolutely illegal" and said it was detrimental to relations between the two countries, Reuters reported, citing the RIA news agency.
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