Turkish media outlets are reporting that the government has seized 27 Russian commercial ships because they failed “to meet sailing criteria.”
The government justified the moves because the Russian government is allegedly holding eight Turkish ships since the Turkish military shot down a Russian warplane on Nov. 24.
“The number of detained Turkish ships has reached eight as of Dec. 15,” a source told the media.
There have been numerous reports of Russian aggression against Turkish ships in the Black Sea and Aegean Sea. The latest involved a Turkish ship that interrupted a Russian vessel transferring two oil rigs from Ukrainian territory to Russian territory. The Russians allegedly shot at the boat, but the Turkish fishermen could not confirm the action. After that news hit, Crimea’s Border Service denied any ship had attempted to stop or interfere with the Russian vessels to move the rigs.
And now the Russian government denies Turkey is holding any of their ships.
“The Russian embassy in Turkey has not received any letters from the shipowners or the crews of Russian ships regarding unlawful detention in Turkish ports after Russia had imposed economic penalties (on Turkey) following the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 jet,” explained Igor Mityakov, spokesman for the Russian embassy in Ankara.
Officials insist there are no Russian ships in the Turkish port of Trabzon or the Turkish Black Sea Port of Samsun.
“The ships are going through the safety of navigation checks. But they are being carried out in compliance with international law and rules. We have not noticed any unfounded delays of Russian vessels,” declared Dmitry Talanov, Russia’s General Consul in Trabzon.
“The ships are coming and going normally. There are no extraordinary situations,” a source in Samsun told TASS.
Tensions between Turkey and Russia have been escalating since Nov. 24. The Russian government began steps to push through economic sanctions, which President Vladimir Putin enacted two days later. Putin justified his moves due to “national security” concerns and to protect “the national interests of the Russian Federation.”
Reports also indicated that Russian customs officials are denying Turkish nationals entry into the nation. Other reports claimed officials cracked down on Turkish nationals already in Russia. The officers rounded up workers, closed a cultural center, and harassed Turkish businessmen. They detained 400 workers at a “dormitory for construction workers from Turkish firm Mebe.” The officials fingerprinted the workers for a database to conduct background tests.
“They said the check was due to national security,” explained Irina Lebedeva, Mebe’s deputy human resources director. “We hope this will not be repeated. It did disrupt our work. Perhaps in the current situation it can be justified.”