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France’s navy intercepts Russia-bound cargo ship in Channel

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French naval forces have intercepted in the Channel a cargo vessel loaded with cars heading for Russia’s Baltic port city of Saint Petersburg after sanctions agreed by the EU against Russia, officials said Saturday.

The Russian-flagged Baltic Leader, which had set sail from the French city of Rouen, was escorted to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by French forces, the maritime prefecture told AFP. It is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by EU sanctions against Moscow, it added.

It was stopped by a French customs patrol vessel backed by a police surveillance ship and a patrol boat of the navy, said Veronique Magnin of the regional prefecture.

The 127-metre (417-foot) vessel is “strongly suspected of being linked to Russian interests targeted by sanctions,” she said, adding that while such a measure was “rare” it is “a sign of “firmness”.

The move comes after the European Union on Thursday adopted unprecedented sanctions against Russian individuals, companies and other entities to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Paris told the TASS news agency the boat’s captain had telephoned the embassy, which then contacted the French authorities to ask for an explanation of the incident.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French state-owned international news agency based in Paris. It is the world's oldest news agency, having been founded in 1835 as Havas.

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