Ukraine Seizes Russian Tanker over 2018 Kerch Strait Incident

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Ukraine Seizes Russian Tanker over 2018 Kerch Strait Incident

The Ukrainian Security Service said Thursday it had seized a Russian tanker that blocked off the Kerch Strait in a November spat between the two countries.

Moscow accused Kiev of provoking its forces, while Kiev denied that its ships had violated Russia's border, with the then-president, Petro Poroshenko, calling the seizure "an act of aggression".

The vessel was at port in the Black Sea Wednesday when the security service detained the tanker, allowing its 10 crew members to disembark and leave the country because they weren't involved in the November incident.

Russian lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov, who is deputy chairman of the committee on global affairs at Russia's upper house of Parliament, said that Ukraine seizing the Russian tanker today was "absolutely illegal".

Russian Federation and Ukraine have been stuck in hostilities since 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea and supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy got on the phone with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin earlier this month in the first ever conversation between the two since Zelenskiy took office in May.

The SBU recalled that on the initiative of the Military Prosecutor's Office, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine had made a special decision enacted by presidential decree No. 82/2019 of March 19, 2009, imposing special economic sanctions and other restrictive measures on LLC Yuvas Trans for three years.

Russian officials said Ukraine released crew members without charge but kept the Neyma. Ukrainian officials say the ship changed its name from "NEYMA" to "NIKA SPIRIT". The Ukrainian side claims that the vessel used to be called NEYMA and was allegedly involved in the Kerch Strait incident that resulted in seizing three Ukrainian vessels by Russian Federation. Two men in camouflaged uniforms with Ukrainian insignia were shown walking through the Russian-flagged vessel. The sailors remain imprisoned in Moscow.

Ukrainian analyst Sergiy Solodky told AFP that the move likely took Russian Federation by surprise, saying Moscow had hoped for Kiev to have a softer position on Russian Federation after Zelensky took office in May.

"This will provoke an angry reaction from the Russian leadership", he said.

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