Russia reproached Greece and the European Union over the inspection of a Russian cargo vessel by Greek special forces off the coast of Libya earlier in January.
The inspection by soldiers from the Hellenic Navy vessel “Adrias,” which is the flagship of Operation Irini, took place on January 11.
The main mission of the Operation is to implement the arms embargo on Libya, in the context of the relevant UN Security Council resolution.
Greek soldiers are seen aboard the Russian merchant vessel “Adler,” holding Greek and EU flags. A member of the Russian crew is holding a Russian flag.
#Irini flagship, #Adrias of @NavyGR, did the 63th friendly visit of the Operation to a merchant vessel, the cooperative Adler. #OpIrini works together with the shipping companies to free #CentralMed from illicit traffics. We are #StrongerTogether. #Irini4Peace #Irini4libya pic.twitter.com/sGclj4ySPq
— Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI (@EUNAVFOR_MED) January 11, 2021
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Moscow is in contact with Greek authorities, to “clarify the circumstances of the incident, in which much remains incomprehensible to us.”
She added that neither Russia not the UN had been informed of the inspection operation.
“The command of Operation Irini is obliged to submit to the relevant UN Security Council committee detailed information explaining the reasons for the inspection, the actions taken to obtain the consent of the flag state of the vessel in question, and the results of such an inspection,” Zakharova said.
She added: “A different approach would testify to the non-transparent nature of Irini’s activities and the extensive interpretation of the provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions by the EU in order to realize its own interests in the Mediterranean.”
Operation Irini and Libya
Operation Irini (Greek for “peace”), currently commanded by Greece, was launched by the EU on March 31, 2020.
Its core task is the implementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya through the use of aerial, satellite and maritime assets.
The mission is particularly mandated to carry out inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya.
In October 2020, the command was assumed by Captain Theodoros Mikropoulos of the The frigate “Adrias.”
Friction with Turkey
The Operation has caused friction with Turkey as well, in November of 2020, when Ankara blocked a German military vessel from inspecting a cargo ship suspected of carrying weapons on its way to Libya.
The search had to be abandoned after Ankara protested and denied permission for the vessel to be searched.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced the inspection as “unauthorized and forceful” and said all crewmembers of the freighter were forcibly searched.
Germany rejected Turkey’s complaints and stated that all protocols were followed in the mission, adding that no weapons or illicit materials were found on the ship.