Russia warns Ukraine of 'consequences' after tanker seized
Iran Press TV
Thu Jul 25, 2019 02:51PM
Russia warns Ukraine that it will soon face "consequences" after the latter seized a Russian oil tanker, claiming it had been involved in a November naval confrontation with Kiev.
"We are looking into what happened to take appropriate measures," a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson told AFP. "If Russians are taken hostage, this would be interpreted as the crudest violation of international law and consequences will not be long in coming," the official added.
Ukrainian forces seized the vessel in the port of Izmail in the southern Ukrainian region of Odessa on Thursday for, what the Ukrainian security service (SBU) alleged, was its taking part in an incident in the Kerch Strait last November, which saw three Ukrainian vessels seized by Russia.
"The Ukraine security service and military prosecutors' office detained Russian tanker, the Neyma, which had blocked Ukrainian warships in the Kerch Strait," the security service said in a statement on Thursday.
The SBU said the Russian vessel was sailing under a different name -- Nika Spirit--, claiming that its name had been deliberately changed to conceal its engagement in last year's incident.
The crew members were later freed by Ukraine and were on their way home, but the tanker remained in Ukrainian custody in Izmail, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Kiev said by telephone.
An SBU statement said earlier that investigators had seized documents onboard the Russian vessel and questioned crewmembers.
Moscow-Kiev relations have been strained since 2014, when a wave of protests in Ukraine overthrew a democratically-elected pro-Russia government and replaced it with a pro-West administration, prompting armed confrontations in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine's east, where the majority have refused to endorse the new administration.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow, however, denies the allegations.
The ties were further strained later in 2014 after people in Crimea, a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea, voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation.
Crimea is largely populated by ethnic Russians but it used to be part of Ukraine.
Observers say Kiev's capture of the Russian vessel has come as a move to force Moscow to release 24 Ukrainian soldiers, who have been kept by Russia since the November incident.
Senior Russian lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov described Ukraine's detainment of the tanker as "absolutely illegal" and said it was detrimental to the bilateral ties, Russia's RIA news agency reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky had discussed settling the long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine and a possible prisoner swap during their first phone call earlier this month.
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