Magazine article Russian Life

Tall Ship Falls Prey to Legal Hijinx

Magazine article Russian Life

Tall Ship Falls Prey to Legal Hijinx

Article excerpt

Swiss trading company seizes vessel in debt dispute

For eleven days in July, the world's tallest ship, the Russian ship Sedov, was impounded in the French port of Brest, its young Russian passengers virtual hostages. The action was precipitated by the Swiss trading company Noga, which claims that the Russian government owes it $800 million from oil-for-food deals concluded in the early 1990s.

The affair was followed closely in the Russian press. In one episode played out for Russian television, the Sedov's young sailors sang in chorus a remake of the old patriotic sailor's song [originally about the Varyag cruiser]: "Our proud Sedov does not surrender to the enemy."

In a wordplay on the Swiss company's name ("noga" means "leg" in Russian), the media quipped that the Swiss company's arbitrary action "stood on one leg." On July 24, the county court in Brest agreed, saying that, while the boat does belong to Russia, it is being operated by the Murmansk State Technical University, an independent entity. The court then ordered Noga to pay $70,000 in compensation to the university and another $35,000 to the organizers of the Brest 2000 Sailing Festival, which had invited the Sedov to France. …

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