France intercepts Russia-bound cargo ship ‘Baltic Leader’ in the English Channel and ‘escorts’ it to Boulogne

The ship was taken to a port in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, northern France  (Creative Commons)
The ship was taken to a port in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, northern France (Creative Commons)

The French navy has intercepted a Russian cargo ship in the English Channel that was bound for Saint Petersburg, the BBC has reported.

French officials told the broadcaster that the ship was intercepted according to with new European Union sanctions imposed on Russian entities and individuals after Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine.

The ship, named ‘Baltic Leader’, has been redirected and “escorted” to a port in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, the BBC added citing an official.

The 22-year-old vessel was scheduled to reach St Petersburg on 3 March, according to a cargo ship tracking website, after having set said from Rouen in the Normandy region of northern France.

Baltic Leader ship in Boulogne after it was intercepted by the French navy (Vessel Finder/screenshot)
Baltic Leader ship in Boulogne after it was intercepted by the French navy (Vessel Finder/screenshot)

Captain Veronique Magnin, regional communication officer for the maritime prefecture, has said the ship was diverted to Boulogne-sur-Mer between 3 and 4am local time.

An official told the BBC: “A 127 meters long Russia cargo ship called the ‘Baltic Leader’ transporting cars has been intercepted overnight by the French Navy in the Channel and escorted to the Port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer in Northern France.

“It has been taken to the French port after a request by the French government because it is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by EU sanctions against Moscow.

“French border forces are currently investigating the cargo ship. Crew aboard the ‘Baltic Leader’ has been cooperating with French authorities.”

Russia’s embassy in Paris is requesting that the French authorities explain why the ship was seized, according to Russian news agency RIA.

Sanctions have been imposed by the EU, the UK, Canada and the US on a number of Russian entities and individuals linked to the Kremlin, following Russia’s invasion of its neighbour on Thursday.

The sanctioned individuals include Russian president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.