A Russian freighter bound for Saint Petersburg was intercepted in the English Channel.
The 416ft commercial boat is believed to belong to one of 100 Russian companies that were hit with crippling EU sanctions this week following the invasion of Moscow Ukraine.
France confirmed on Saturday morning that maritime police had seized the vessel, which was transporting cars from Rouen in Normandy to Saint Petersburg in Russia.
Captain Véronique Magnin of the French maritime prefecture said the ship was “strongly suspected of being linked to Russian interests targeted by the sanctions”.
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A French official told the BBC: “A 127-metre-long Russian freighter called ‘Baltic Leader’ carrying cars was intercepted overnight by the French navy in the English Channel and escorted to the port of Boulogne-Sur- Sea in the north of France.
“He was taken to the French port after a request from the French government because he is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by EU sanctions against Moscow.”
The official added that the crew aboard the “Baltic Leader” cooperated with the French authorities.
The Russian Embassy in France is “looking for explanations”, the Russian news agency RIA said on Saturday, citing the embassy.
Russia has been hit with a deluge of economic sanctions after invading its southern neighbor three days ago.
Western nations have ordered personal sanctions against President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meaning their assets will be frozen.
It comes on top of previously announced sanctions against a number of Russian banks and billionaires.
However, the practical impact of the sanctions is unclear.
Ukraine has called on international powers to go further by excluding Russia from Swift, the global international banking system. The UK has said it supports the move, but it is “not a unilateral decision” and that other powers must join us.
Ukraine’s foreign minister also calls on the world to stop buying Russian crude oil.
Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: “I ask the world: completely isolate Russia, expel ambassadors, oil embargo, ruin its economy. Stop Russian war criminals!
So far, Western sanctions have avoided targeting Russia’s energy sector.
This is breaking news, more will follow soon… Check back soon for further updates.
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