France seizes Russian freighter suspected of violating Ukraine sanctions
A Russian freighter belonging to a company suspected of violating trade sanctions linked to the invasion of Ukraine has been seized in the English Channel, officials have confirmed.
The ship, identified as the Baltic Leader, which is around 130 meters long, sailed from Rouen in Normandy and was intercepted near Honfleur in the early hours of the morning by French officials.
Captain Véronique Magnin of France’s maritime prefecture said the ship, which was carrying cars to St Petersburg and sailing under the Russian flag, is “strongly suspected of being linked to sanctioned Russian interests”.
Continuous checks by customs officers are underway and could take up to 48 hours, Ms Magnin said.
The ship’s crew of 19 were ‘cooperative’, she added, and Russian news agency TASS quoted the Russian Embassy as saying that all members on board had been cleared to disembark. .
The identification of the ship as the Baltic Leader was first reported by the French newspaper La Voix Du Nord, but this fact has not been confirmed by the authorities.
According to the marinetraffic.com site, the ship sails under the Russian flag.
French ministers have given maritime authorities the power to detain vessels suspected of breaching sanctions, Ms Magnin added.
EU members agreed on Friday to freeze the European assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to punish Russia for the attack on Ukraine.
A broader list of sanctioned people was put in place earlier this month.
Meanwhile, a Kremlin-backed ship is due to arrive in Orkney this week, sparking discontent among members of the British community.
The tanker, NS Champion, is due to dock at Flotta Jetty on Tuesday March 1.
It is owned by the state-owned Sovcomflot, Russia’s largest shipping company and one of the world’s leading oil and gas carriers.
He was going up The Minch today and heading towards Flotta.
Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, expressed concern over Russia’s continued access to the UK economy.
Highlighting on Thursday the presence of another Sovcomflot-owned tanker, the NS Challenger, at Sullom Voe in Shetland, Mr Carmichael secured a commitment from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to review Russian tankers’ access to terminals in the North Sea.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said he couldn’t ‘think of a good answer’ in response to voters asking him why oil should be loaded onto a Russian tanker as troops invaded the Ukraine.
He said: ‘Can the Prime Minister tell me if everything he has announced today will ensure this does not happen again in the future?
Boris Johnson responded by saying: ‘I will of course immediately investigate what is happening with the oil tanker Sovcomflot, but the result of the measures passed by the House the other day is that we can target any company, no any entity that has a relationship with the Russian State.’
Meanwhile, a Japanese freighter, the Namura Queen, was hit by a Russian Navy missile in the Black Sea south of Ukraine, injuring a crew member.