France seizes ship suspected of violating sanctions against Russia

The ship was diverted to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France between 10am and 11am Singapore time. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - French sea police seized a ship on Saturday (Feb 26) that the authorities suspect belongs to a Russian company targeted by European Union sanctions over the war in Ukraine, a government official told Reuters.

The cargo vessel transporting cars, which was headed for St Petersburg, is "strongly suspected of being linked to Russian interests targeted by the sanctions," said Captain Veronique Magnin of the French Maritime Prefecture.

The ship was diverted to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France between 3am and 4am (10am and 11am Singapore time), Capt Magnin said, adding ongoing checks were being carried out by customs officials and the ship's crew was "being cooperative".

French newspaper La Voix Du Nord, which first reported the news, said the vessel was the "Baltic Leader", which - according to website - sails under a Russian flag.

The vessel is mentioned in a United States Treasury document detailing US sanctions against Russia, which linked it to a Russian leasing company.

Capt Magnin told Reuters the company that owns the ship belongs to a Russian businessman who is on the EU’s list of sanctioned people.

The Russian embassy in France is seeking an explanation from the authorities over the seizure, Russia’s RIA news agency quoted the embassy as saying.  

Russia’s Tass news agency quoted the Russian embassy as saying all 19 people on board had been allowed to come ashore.  

EU states on Friday agreed to freeze European assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister to punish Russia for the attack on Ukraine.

A wider list of sanctioned people was put in place earlier this month. 

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