As military and geopolitical tensions swirl between Moscow and Warsaw, Polish authorities have confirmed the detention of a Russian cargo ship in Gdańsk Bay in the Baltic Sea.
“Currently, the ship is resting at anchor,” the Polish maritime office in Gdynia confirmed in a press release on Sunday. “A State Port Inspection Inspector from the Gdynia Maritime Bureau and border officials inspected the vessel. A note on the immobilization of the vessel was drawn. Police have been notified of the incident. The shipping office added that the vessel was apprehended and detained on the night of December 3 after ignoring multiple attempts by the Polish coast guard to make contact. Polish port authorities noted that the vessel, the 7,750 dwt general cargo ship Ruslana, was heading straight for Sobieszewo Island at a speed of eleven knots per hour and would have run aground without a sharp last-minute turn.
Coastguard inspectors reportedly discovered that three crew members, including the captain, were intoxicated at the time of the incident. Alexey Surovtsev, managing director of shipping company Transflot, confirmed to Russian media Izvestia that the Russian crew members in question were drunk, adding that the crew will be replaced on Monday by sailors from the Russian central European enclave of Kaliningrad. However, Surovtsev denied the claim that the Ruslana had deviated from its course.
Despite the steadily worsening relationship between Moscow and Warsaw, authorities and company representatives involved in Ruslana’s detention say the incident is not political. Tensions rose between the two countries in November after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, considered by critics to be a Kremlin proxy, orchestrated a humanitarian crisis along the Polish-Belarusian border. Minsk routed thousands of migrants, mostly plane passengers from the Middle East, to the Polish border where they requested passage to Germany. Poland and the European Union accused Lukashenko of retaliation against Western sanctions in the aftermath of the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki blamed Russia, saying the migrant crisis “ has his brain in Moscow ”. Morawiecki accused Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to destabilize the European Union.
Polish Ministry of Defense at advanced stage of negotiations to purchase up to 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks, with first deliveries expected to start next year. The Eastern European country finalized a $ 4.6 billion contract in 2020 to purchase thirty-two fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters from the United States. The first batch of Polish F-35 planes are expected to be delivered to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, in 2024, followed by deliveries to the country from 2026.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National interest.