Illegal trade in Crimea: International trade with Crimea ongoing despite sanctions - OCCRP

16:23 Aug. 17, 2016

International trade with Crimea ongoing despite sanctions - OCCRP

The General vessel, photographed at the port of Sevastopol (Source: www.occrp.org)

More than 600 vessels have entered Crimean ports in the past two years, and OCCRP research indicates both Western and Middle Eastern businessmen continue to trade with Crimea, in violation of the policies of their own countries.

After Russian troops occupied the Crimean peninsula two years ago, the Kyiv government moved to block trade at all commercial ports—a move that was later supported by the European Union (EU), the US, and other countries.

Yet more than 600 vessels have entered Crimean ports in the past two years, and OCCRP research indicates both Western and Middle Eastern businessmen continue to trade with Crimea, in violation of the policies of their own countries.

What makes it easier for them is that to date, Ukraine has not prosecuted a single vessel owner or captain.

GHOST SHIPS

In early December of 2015, a vessel named General flew the blue-and-yellow flag of the Republic of Palau as it passed through the Bosphorus, the channel linking the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea at Istanbul.

The ship was heading towards Ukraine, its official route stated as: Nemrut Bay (near the Turkish city of Izmir on the Aegean Sea) to Kherson, a Black Sea port city on the southern Ukraine mainland northwest of Crimea.

However, on Dec. 4 the vessel lay near the entrance to Sevastopol harbor in southwest Crimea, the peninsula's largest city and home to the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet. The General disappeared from international tracking radar for 10 days. On Dec. 14, its onboard navigator was turned back on, and General returned to the Turkish port. It apparently never went to Kherson.

According to international navigation standards, every international vessel must carry an electronic "navigator" linking it to the Automatic Identification System (AIS), a global network that tracks vessels using satellites, reports from passing ships and radar. It is possible to follow the movement of vessels throughout the world via AIS navigators, using the website http://www.marinetraffic.com/.

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