MOSCOW …Ukraine seized a Russian tanker anchored in the Black Sea on Thursday, freeing the crew but holding onto the vessel in apparent retaliation for Russia’s capture of Ukrainian ships and sailors last year.
The release of the 10 crew members from the ship Nika Spirit appeared to slightly lower tensions after the tanker seizure, but Ukraine’s move underscored the ongoing diplomatic and military flash points between the two nations.
It also posed a major test for Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The actor-turned-politician has pledged to seek peace efforts with the Kremlin after more than five years of conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s SBU security service said the Nika Spirit was identified as being involved in the interception of Ukrainian vessels on Nov. 25 in the Kerch Strait near Crimea, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. Twenty-four crew members aboard the Ukrainian vessels remain in detention.