KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine said Thursday, July 25, it seized a Russian tanker used in a naval confrontation last November, prompting a warning from Moscow of swift "consequences."
Ukraine's SBU security service said it stopped the tanker, the Neyma, as it entered the port of Izmail in the southern Odessa region. Investigators seized documents onboard and questioned crew members, an SBU statement said.
"We are looking into what happened to take appropriate measures," a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson told Agence France-Presse.
"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 spokesperson added.
Russia and Ukraine have been stuck in hostilities since 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea and supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
According to the SBU, the tanker participated in an operation by Russia to seize 3 Ukrainian vessels off Crimea last November. The Neyma had changed its name painted on the hull to "conceal its involvement in the act of aggression," it said.
The SBU released a video showing Ukrainian officials on the tanker, which had a Russian flag on it.
In the November confrontation, Russia detained 24 Ukrainian sailors. It was the most dangerous clash between the two countries in years. The sailors remain imprisoned in Moscow.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in the German port city of Hamburg, has urged Russia to release the sailors and return them to Ukraine.
Moscow accuses the sailors of violating its maritime borders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's new leader Volodymyr Zelensky discussed a possible prisoner swap during their first phone call earlier this month. – Rappler.com