Ukraine seizes Russian tanker in Black Sea

Ukraine has detained a Russian tanker over its alleged role in a confrontation that led to Moscow’s seizure of three Ukrainian vessels last November. 

In a statement on Thursday, Ukraine’s security service said the vessel, now called Nika Spirit and formerly named the Neyma, entered the Black Sea port of Izmail on Wednesday after which it was identified and detained.

Senior Russian lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov described the tanker’s seizure as “absolutely illegal” and said the move was detrimental to relations between the two neighbouring countries, according to the the RIA news agency.

Authorities in Ukraine said that the tanker was used in a Russian operation to block Ukrainian vessels from sailing through the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov on November 25 last year.

Russian ships fired on Ukrainian vessels in the strait and Russian authorities seized the ships and detained 24 Ukrainians onboard them.

The confrontation sparked a major crisis between Ukraine and Russia, amid already strained relations between the two states.

Negotiations on the crew’s release have intensified after Russian and Ukrainian leaders spoke by phone earlier this month, according to Ukraine’s ombudswoman. 

UN court orders Russia to free detained Ukraine sailors (02:20)

“In the active phase of the negotiations on the release of Ukrainian sailors have moved after a telephone conversation between the President of Ukraine and the president of Russian Federation,” Lyudmyla Denisova told a news conference on Thursday, shortly before the news of the Nika Spirit’s detention broke. 

Also on Thursday, Valentina Matviyenko, the head of Russia’s Federation Council, said Moscow was ready for dialogue with the newly-elected Ukrainian parliament. 

“We are ready to have a dialogue with the parliament, which has been trusted by the people. And we hope that such a dialogue is now possible, at least on those issues where we can form a positive agenda,” she said.

But Matviyenko claimed the elections on Sunday was not in compliance with international law, as some one million people in eastern Ukraine were not able to cast votes.

Ukraine held parliamentary elections on July 21 after Volodymyr Zelensky, formerly a popular comedian, dissolved the parliament after taking office in May.

Voter turnout was one of the lowest in history, only 49.84 percent.

The elections did not take place in Crimea, a peninsula on the northern Black Sea coast annexed by Russia in 2014, and in eastern Ukraine, which is currently under the control of pro-Russian rebels.

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