A view shows the Russian tanker Nika Spirit detained by Ukraine's security service in Izmail. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Moscow-Kiev relations have been tense ever since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

BY REUTERS  JULY 25, 2019 16:41

Ukraine said on Thursday it had detained a Russian tanker for its alleged involvement in the seizure of three Ukrainian vessels by Russia in November, and Moscow threatened consequences if Russian citizens were “taken hostage.”

Ukraine’s security service maintained that the tanker in the Ukrainian port of Izmail was involved in an incident in November in the Kerch Strait that led to Russia seizing three Ukrainian vessels.Read More Related Articles

“The Ukraine security service and military prosecutors’ office detained (a) Russian tanker, the Neyma, which had blocked Ukrainian warships in the Kerch Strait,” the security service said in a statement on Thursday.

Russia captured the vessels and their crews in waters that separate the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and Russia. Moscow-Kiev relations have been tense ever since.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned Ukraine on Thursday that “there will soon be consequences” if any Russian members of the crew of the tanker detained by Kiev were “taken hostage,” RIA news agency reported.

Ukraine’s security service was not available for comment.

It said earlier that the Russian vessel had entered Ukraine under its new name, the Nika Spirit, “to cover its involvement in illegal actions,” but that it had identified the ship by its unique International Maritime Organization number (IMO).

“The above named vessel is considered to be a piece of material evidence, (and) a petition to a court for its arrest is being prepared,” the security service said in its statement.

In Moscow, senior Russian lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov described Ukraine’s detention of the tanker as “absolutely illegal” and said it was detrimental to relations between the two countries, RIA news agency reported.

In Kiev, Ukraine’s ombudswoman said negotiations on the release of the Ukrainian sailors from the three vessels seized by the Russian navy off Crimea’s coast had intensified after Russian and Ukrainian leaders spoke by phone earlier this month.

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