May 22, 2024

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The War Between Russia and Ukraine: Live Updates – The New York Times

The War Between Russia and Ukraine: Live Updates – The New York Times

Ships in the Black Sea near Sulina, Romania. Russian authorities said they boarded a merchant ship in the waterway this weekend.credit…Andrea Cambiano for The New York Times

The Russian military boarded a merchant ship in the Black Sea over the weekend, according to the Russian government, in what appears to be the first time Russia has made good on its promise to intercept such ships in the waterway.

Shortly after dawn on Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its patrol vessel, Vasily Bykov, spotted the ship, which was flying the flag of Palau, an island nation in the western Pacific Ocean. Military bloggers in Russia and news organizations posted a video, verified by The New York Times, showing a military helicopter flying at deck level near the starboard side of Sukru Okan. The cargo ship is owned and operated by a Turkish company, according to major shipping database Equasis.

The Defense Ministry said the patrol vessel opened fire with small automatic weapons when the vessel initially failed to respond to a request to stop for inspection to see if it was carrying any prohibited goods. In a post on messaging app Telegram, the ministry said it had fired warning shots. Then a helicopter was sent to land the boarding team. The video showed eight men in civilian clothes, who appeared to be members of the ship’s crew, squatting on the deck facing away from the helicopter as men in military uniform moved close by.

The ship in the video matches archived photos of Sukru Okan, according to an analysis by The Times. According to transponder data, the Sukru Okan was sailing outside Turkish territorial waters at the time the Russian Defense Ministry said it had detected the ship and sent a helicopter to land on it.

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Tensions have risen steadily since Moscow ended a deal a month ago that allowed Ukraine to ship its grain and other food crops across the Black Sea, but analysts said it appeared to be the first time the Russian navy had boarded a ship. Since then, Russia has increased its attacks on coastal cities, especially infrastructure, and has hit sites close to the borders of Romania, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Russia said that all ships operating in the Black Sea would be considered legitimate targets.

Ukraine condemned Russia on Monday for its decision to stop and search the ship bound for Ukraine, saying it threatened freedom of navigation in the Black Sea.

“Russia should not be able to block international routes in the Black Sea, especially those to Ukrainian seaports,” said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, adding that this is a flagrant violation of international law.

The 1936 Montreux Convention covers the rights of warring nations’ naval vessels to regulate commercial traffic in the Black Sea during the course of the war. It was not immediately clear whether the incident, which analysts said took place in international waters, violated international law.

Anton Troyanovsky Contribute to the preparation of reports