France seizes ship suspected of violating sanctions against Russia

The Russian embassy in France is seeking an explanation from authorities over the seizure.

French flag in France (photo credit: REUTERS)
French flag in France
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The Russian embassy in Paris will send a note of protest to the French foreign ministry over the seizure of a Russian-flagged cargo ship by French officials who said they were enforcing sanctions, the embassy said in a statement sent to Reuters.

French sea police seized a ship on Saturday that 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 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. (0200-0300 GMT), Magnin said, adding ongoing checks were being carried out by customs officials and the ship's crew was "being cooperative."

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

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

 Russian army military vehicles are seen in Armyansk, Crimea, on February 25, 2022 (credit: STRINGER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES) Russian army military vehicles are seen in Armyansk, Crimea, on February 25, 2022 (credit: STRINGER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

The company that owns the ship belongs to a Russian businessman who is on the EU's list of sanctioned people, Magnin said.

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.