French sea police have seized a ship within the Channel that authorities suspect belongs to a Russian firm in one of many first seen shows of the West implementing sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The cargo vessel transporting vehicles, which was headed for St Petersburg, is “strongly suspected of being linked to Russian pursuits focused by the sanctions”, mentioned Capt Veronique Magnin, of the French Maritime Prefecture.

The ship was diverted to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France between 3am and 4am native time, Magnin mentioned, including that checks had been being carried out by customs officers and that the ship’s crew was “being cooperative”.

The US Treasury Division has issued blocking sanctions in opposition to the vessel saying it was owned by a subsidiary of Russian lender Promsvyazbank, one of many Russian entities hit by US sanctions.

The financial institution’s CEO, Pyotr Fradkov, is the son of Mikhail Fradkov, a former head of Russia’s overseas intelligence service, who additionally served as prime minister below Vladimir Putin. Pyotr Fradkov was himself included within the newest spherical of US sanctions.

Promsvyazbank, in a remark despatched to Reuters, mentioned its subsidiary now not owns the Baltic Chief, and that it was purchased by a unique entity earlier than the sanctions had been imposed.

The Russian embassy in France is in search of a proof from authorities over the seizure, Russia’s RIA information company quoted the embassy as saying. The embassy additionally mentioned the ship’s crew had been allowed to come back ashore and transfer freely in regards to the port.

The US, European Union, and different Western states this week imposed in depth new monetary and commerce sanctions on Russia after it despatched navy forces into neighbouring Ukraine.

The US Treasury mentioned Promsvyazbank was put below sanctions “for working or having operated within the defence and associated materiel and monetary providers sectors of the Russian Federation financial system.” It was additionally focused by EU sanctions.