The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), together with the country’s military prosecutor’s office, detained the Russian tanker Nika Spirit. He was identified as the Neyma tanker, which in November 2018 was used by Russian border guards to block the Strait of Kerch during the operation to detain three Ukrainian ships.
July 24, the tanker entered the port of Izmail, Odessa region. According to the Security Service of Ukraine, the vessel was renamed “in order to conceal involvement in illegal actions and an act of aggression.” A group of investigators of the SBU, military prosecutors and border guards, with the sanction of the Ukrainian court, conducted a search on board. Documents, logbooks and records of radio communications have been withdrawn, the report said on the SBU page on Facebook.
The vessel changed its name from Neyma to Nika Spirit, but the unique international vessel identifier (IMO) remained the same – 8895528. It is known that in June 2018 the tanker was put up for sale. Bidding ended in December 2018, their result is unknown.
According to the MarineTraffic portal, the tanker departed for the last departure from the port of Kavkaz in the Krasnodar Territory.
Ukrainian authorities are preparing a petition to arrest the vessel. They also state that 15 officials of the top military leadership of Russia, including one rear admiral, two vice admirals and a colonel general, are suspected in the case of the incident in the Kerch Strait.
Recall, on November 25, 2018, Russian border guards detained three Ukrainian ships, accusing their crew of violating the state border of the Russian Federation. 24 Ukrainian sailors were arrested and detained.
Western countries have condemned the actions of Russia. In May 2019, the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea decided that Russia should immediately release the sailors. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky appealed to Vladimir Putin to release the Ukrainian sailors.
Capture tankers commented in the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian side is investigating the circumstances of the incident in order to take adequate measures, a source told RIA Novosti.
– If we are talking about the seizure of Russians hostage, it would be qualified as a gross violation of international law and the consequences will not keep themselves waiting, – said the agency.
Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin later said that the detention of the tanker was “very bad news.”
– Someone in Kiev wants a hard continuation of their own provocation of November 25. We will thoroughly understand what happened, – said Karasin.
If we are talking about seizing a tanker “in retaliation for taking some part or simply being in the Kerch Strait at the moment when an attempt was made to break through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov without timely notifying the Russian side, permission, everything else then this is“ piracy ”, which will lead to the aggravation of the Russian-Ukrainian relations, says the first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Konstantin Zatulin.
What is really behind the actions of Ukraine, how will Russia respond to this?
- No one could have foreseen the seizure of the tanker, – said Mikhail Alexandrov, a leading expert at the Center for Military-Political Research at MGIMO.
– The insult of the Ukrainian authorities to a specific tanker looks strange. Even if the crew on the ship was the same as on November 25, 2018, the sailors simply fulfilled what our border authorities told them. And they would try not to perform.
In a word, it is foolish to arrest a tanker just because it participated in an operation against Ukrainian ships.
– What is the Ukrainian authorities have done?
– This is just understandable. Capturing a tanker is an attempt to pressure Russia into the detained Ukrainian sailors. Attempting to blackmail us, de facto taking the tanker and crew as hostages.
In my opinion, all this was done according to the example that the UK filed.
Let me remind you that on July 4, the British authorities detained the Iranian tanker Grace 1 in the Strait of Gibraltar on suspicion of transporting petroleum products to Syria.
Iran immediately described it as piracy, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the Islamic Republic would not leave this act unanswered. Iran did just that: the British tankers Stena Impero and Mesdar were detained in the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation.
Now London does not know how to get out of this situation.
As for Ukraine, the seizure of the tanker is another attempt to test the Russian leadership for “weak”, now undertaken by Zelensky.
It is no coincidence, I believe, US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker flew on July 25 to the “Square”. Apparently, he immediately distributed guidelines, to whom and what to do. Here we must understand: for Zelensky, the problem of Ukrainian sailors is quite relevant. He promised to release them, but there was no progress – but Volker was right there: he suggested that, apparently, the option that suits the USA. An option that – in fact – only leads to a worsening of the situation.
Americans do not care if sailors are released or not. It is important for them to check how Russia behaves.
– What can the Kremlin answer?
- Our authorities, I believe, should behave no less decisively than the Iranian ones. Otherwise it will be clear that they are weak and unable to effectively govern the country.
We have, in fact, enormous opportunities for response. Our fleet controls the Black Sea, and we can detain Ukrainian ships anywhere. We can even forbid them to pass through the Kerch Strait until our tanker is released.
We can deploy all the Ukrainian ships that go from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov – due to the piracy of Kiev. Iran, after all, calls the actions of Britain pirated – and that’s what we need.
In short, we have a stronger position, and therefore we must act decisively.
– The capture of the tanker negates the prospects for a new dialogue with Kiev, which seem to have appeared after a telephone conversation between Zelensky and Putin?
– Serious experts did not expect that there will be some kind of improvement in relations. The only hope was that the level of confrontation in the Donbass will decrease. And those who in Russia were singing a sweet song, as if Zelensky was an opportunity for new relations with Ukraine, only misinformed the Russian public.
Unfortunately, our political leadership still has empty hopes. Although the leadership of the Russian Federation are mature people, especially with experience in the special services. In fact, there is a systemic war against Russia from the West. And there is no reason to believe that our relations with Ukraine can improve.
It is possible, of course, that Donald Trump promised something to Vladimir Putin at the meeting in Osaka – concessions in Ukraine in exchange for Kremlin pressure on Tehran. But if the Russian president believed it, it means that he did not learn anything from communicating with the Americans.
– Your prediction: how will the situation evolve?
– Perhaps our authorities will act adequately – as they did in the Kerch Strait. But it is possible that Moscow will mumble – again in the hope that it will be possible to agree with Zelensky.
Who sent Russian sailors to become hostages?
As already mentioned, and this confirms the SBU, NEYMA materials allegedly participated in the blocking of Ukrainian warships in the Kerch Strait. Tanker is charged with an act of armed aggression against the armored boats of the Navy “Nikopol”, “Berdyansk” and the tug “Yana Kapu” in the autumn of 2018. The photographs of that time are clearly visible – it was this vessel that was really used to block the channel of the strait under the main arch of the Crimean bridge. It is clear that no “armed aggression” emanated from him, although it no longer interests anyone.
It is difficult to understand the logic of the owners of NEYMA, who sent the tanker to the Ukrainian port literally in a few months after such loud events. An informed source confirms that domestic shipowners were the last to attend to the fate of captive sailors.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly called last year’s incident in the Kerch Strait “a pre-prepared provocation that Peter Poroshenko needed because of his low rating on the eve of the presidential election.” And who now needed a clearly provocative entry of the Russian tanker to Izmail – right into the hands of the Ukrainian security forces?
The other day, the authorized representative of the Verkhovna Rada on human rights, Lyudmila Denisova, said on the Kiev TV channel “Gromadska” that “Ukraine has reached a political agreement with the Russian Federation and soon all 24 Ukrainian sailors will return to their homeland.” Moscow called this statement a fake.
And suddenly, official Kiev received new hostages – the NEYMA team and the ship itself. The reaction of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they say, “this would be qualified as a gross violation of international law and the consequences would not be long in coming” – in fact, the shaking of the air turned out to be empty.
Maydan portals frankly creep over ladies’ exclamations of a member of the Federation Council Olga Kovitidi:
- The Ukrainian side is obliged to free our sailors … Ukraine becomes a pirate state … Trying to turn our sailors into a bargaining matter, Ukraine violates the norms of international law.
In response, the senator was recommended to go on an excursion to the Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Silence detention centers, where the “Ukrainian heroes” remain. Many posts on the same topic – after the current rally, it will be easier for Putin to give away the crews of Nikopol, Berdyansk and Yana Kapu, and the Russians will return boats for the tanker.
An evil coincidence, but almost simultaneously with the capture in Izmail on the morning of July 25, the Black Sea Fleet ships lined up along the Sevastopol Bay, completing the formation of the parade system on Sunday Navy Day.
– In two main lines on mooring barrels for residents and guests of Sevastopol are represented the Novorossiysk submarine, the R-60 missile boat, the Samum hovercraft, the Admiral Makarov frigate, the Smetlivy patrol ship, large landing craft the ships Novocherkassk and Nikolai Filchenkov, the guards missile cruiser Moscow, as well as the ship of the Border Guard Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia Ametist, the press service of the Black Sea Fleet solemnly reported.
In Ukraine, July 21 is the day of elections to the Verkhovna Rada, which considers the introduction of an indefinite cease-fire.
On the eve of the newest patrol ship “Dmitry Rogachev” held artillery firing and destroyed aerial targets in the Black Sea. The frigate “Admiral Makarov” and the coastal anti-ship complex “Cliff” in Balaclava successfully fired missiles. Eastern Crimea became the venue for the record air force exercise: 40 IL-76 planes threw out more than 2.5 thousand fighters. The paratroopers for nine minutes captured the airfield of the conditional enemy.
Watching these pictures, we should be happy and proud of the military power of the Black Sea. But that’s where to put the Izmail slap in the face, when a very real enemy captures the next Russian ship? Recall that in the spring of 2018, in the Sea of Azov, under the threat of large-caliber machine guns, the Kerch seiner Nord and ten Crimean fishermen were detained. Crimeans managed to release, seiner continue to keep in the seaport of Berdyansk.
And one more hello for Perekop. It seems that the “aggressor country” does not have any illusions at all, today in the Odessa region the Ukrainian military they conducted new tests of the Alder multiple rocket launcher with an increased range of destruction. According to the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, a salvo of a pack of 12 Alder missiles is capable of delivering high-precision hits on the territory of Crimea. At the same time, each missile is induced on its individual target.
In Kiev, they confirm that the Ukrainian State Border Service controlled the movement of the Russian tanker NEYMA – “we provided tracking of its movement and escort to the port of destination”. It was played out as if by notes: after entering Izmail the ship was decorated in the usual way, and only then did the forces of the special forces “provide forceful support to the investigation team.”