Ukraine Seizes Russian Tanker, Moscow Warns of ‘Consequences’

Ukraine claims tanker is 'evidence' in November naval confrontation

Just days after Russia and Ukraine made a deal on a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, tensions are threatening to flare up again, on news that the Ukrainian spy agency the SBU has seized a Russian tanker, the Nika Spirit, from a port near the Black Sea coast.

An estimated 15 crew members, all Russian citizens, were seized in the move, though they have subsequently been released, following a Russian warning that they wouldn’t stand for their citizens being taken hostage.

Ukrainian officials are trying to justify this move related to a naval confrontation with Russia in the Sea of Azov in November. They claim this tanker was the one blocking access to the Sea of Azov during the Russian closure. When Ukrainian boats forced their way into Russian-claimed waters at the time, they were seized by Russia’s Navy.

Even though nothing the tanker did in the course of that crisis was actually illegal, and at best it could be said to be adjacent to something that happened, Ukrainian officials made a big deal, accusing the Nika Spirit of having changed its name to avoid connection with that matter, and also claiming Russia snuck it back into commercial circulation to try to distract attention.

Russia is still holding the Ukrainian Navy boats, and sailors, from November, and initially this move was seen as an attempt to try to set up an exchange. With Russia having already gotten their crew released, however, it may just delay matters by increasing hostility between the two nations.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.