Greece’s authorities say they have seized a Russian tanker in the Aegean Sea as part of European Union sanctions imposed against Russia.
The Hellenic Coast Guard said the Russian-flagged Pegas, an oil tanker with 19 Russian crew members on board, was seized on April 15th and is currently anchored in the bay of Karystos, the southern coast of the island of Evia.
The coast guard said the seizure order concerned the ship itself and not its cargo.
Greece-Russia relations deteriorate
Greece has joined EU nations in categorically condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Earlier in April, Athens expelled 12 Russian diplomats in reaction to the war in Ukraine, declaring them “personae non-gratae.”
“We have strongly protested against this unjustified and hostile step which aims to further destroy our bilateral relations,” the Russian embassy announced in a statement.
“We made clear that this action will not remain without consequences,” it further said.
Greece is following the lead of other European nations that have been expelling Russian diplomats following the invasion of Ukraine.
Almost two hundred Russian diplomatic staff have been expelled from European countries this week in a direct expression of governments’ outrage at the killings of Ukrainian civilians.
EU mulls further sanctions against Russia
The European Union has adopted five packages of sanctions against Russia over the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, designed to pressure the Russian economy and the government of President Vladimir Putin.
They include individual sanctions, economic sanctions, restrictions on media, diplomatic measures, and restrictions on economic relations with the non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The sanctions also include import and export bans for a wide variety of goods and a ban on access to EU ports by Russian-flagged ships.
EU ministers have been discussing a potential sixth round of sanctions, but an embargo on oil or gas to stop financing Putin’s war machine continues to divide the bloc.
The European Union has paid €35 billion for Russian energy since the start of the war, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has said. In 2021, the EU imported roughly 40% of its gas and 25% of its oil from Russia.
There are plans for a total ban on Russian coal imports but only starting in August, and their value is far inferior to those of oil and gas.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky has urged the European Union to impose sanctions on Russian oil and to set a deadline for ending gas imports from the country.
Within the bloc, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Hungary in particular are very dependent on Russian gas.