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Ukraine takes Russian tanker linked to 2018 military seizure

By
Clyde Hughes

July 25 (UPI) -- Ukrainian security officials said Thursday they detained a Russian oil tanker, saying it participated in the seizure of military vessels captured by Russia last fall.

The Security Service of Ukraine accused the Russian NEYMA tanker of blocking a Ukrainian naval group last November in the waterway on behalf of the Russian military, allowing them to be captured.

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"During the pretrial investigation, it was established that, by direct order of the Russian FSB top leadership, the FSB's Border Guard Service officials committed an act of armed aggression against the Ukrainian naval vessels Nikopol, Berdyansk, and the Yana Kapu tugboat in the Kerch Strait," the SBU said in a statement.

The Ukrainian agency said authorities learned the tanker had been renamed the Nika Spirit and had arrived at a Ukrainian port near Odessa, where it was seized. The agency said it confiscated documents, radio conversations and logbooks from the ship and will ask for a court order to keep it.

Russia said last fall the Ukrainian vessels had illegally wandered into Russian waters. The United States and many Western nations denounced the move.

Russia's foreign ministry warned Ukraine Thursday of "consequences" for taking the tanker.

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"We are studying the details of what has happened to take appropriate measures," the ministry said, state-run news agency TASS reported. "If the Russians were taken hostage, then this will be qualified as a brazen violation of the international law and consequences will ensue quickly."

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