LONDON – France intercepted a Russian ship in the English Channel on Saturday in line with new EU sanctions against Moscow.
The cargo ship transported cars and left Rouen for St. Petersburg. However, French maritime police diverted the ship to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France.
It is “suspected of belonging to a Russian company currently on an EU sanctions list,” the channel’s Maritime Prefecture press office confirmed to NBC News.
According to reports, the 127-meter-long ship is called “Baltic Leader” and the crew is cooperating with the authorities.
The Russian Embassy in France immediately contacted the French authorities for clarification, the Russian news agency RIA said.
The Canal Maritime Prefecture stated that “every night the Maritime Police conduct patrols on the waters to keep an eye out for migrants crossing the Canal. They encountered the Russian boat, an onboard inspection was conducted and the boat was ordered to return to French port. “
According to NBC News, French customs agents are currently on board the boat and are investigating whether it violated sanctions.
The United States and its European allies have decided to directly sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week. The EU also has a broader list of Russian individuals facing penalties.
“Weaken Russia’s Economic Base”
On Thursday, EU leaders backed another set of sanctions targeting strategic sectors of Russia’s economy by blocking access to key technologies and markets.
They will also try to “weaken Russia’s economic base and its ability to modernize” and “freeze Russian assets in the EU and stop Russian banks from accessing the European financial market,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“We are facing an unprecedented act of aggression by the Russian leadership against a sovereign, independent country,” said von der Leyen on Thursday.
“Russia’s goal is not only Donbass, the goal is not only Ukraine, the goal is stability in Europe and the entire international rules-based order. We will hold Russia accountable for this.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in Kiev on Saturday that the capital had managed to repel Russian attacks overnight and that his army was still in control.
Street fighting broke out in Kiev, with Russian troops closing in on the city. Ukraine has blown up bridges leading to Kiev to prevent Russian troops from entering the capital.
– CNBC’s Silvia Amaro contributed to this article.