Waters should be closed! Britain considers imposing ban on Russian ships at UK ports

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NS Champion, a tanker which is majority-owned by the Russian state, was set to arrive at Flotta oil terminal on Tuesday. However, the news of its arrival sparked outrage north of the border, especially since the Orkney Islands council claimed the UK Government had advised them that the vessel cannot be refused entry at this stage.

A spokesperson said: “As a council we are in an extremely difficult position.

“We recognise the strength of feeling around this – feelings that we share – but we are bound by our legal obligations to accept the vessel, until such a time as the UK Government tells us otherwise.”

The SNP’s external affairs secretary in Holyrood, Angus Robertson, 52, also put pressure on the UK Government to act.

He told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show: “The UK authorities have got a big decision to take, on whether we are going to allow Russian-owned or chartered vessels to dock in UK ports.

“[This] is a very fast-moving situation and we’re going to have to act decisively in my view.”

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Local residents also expressed their concerns about Russian vessels.

The UK Government has also come under pressure from Orkney & Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, 56.

The Liberal Democrat MP wrote to Boris Johnson, 57, to say: “Like right thinking people across the United Kingdom, the people of Orkney have been sickened by what we have seen on our television screens of the Russian attack on Ukraine.”

“We expect you, as our Prime Minister, to act to stop this continued trade that is earning money to fund the slaughter of Ukrainian citizens.

“It is imperative… that you should act without delay to ensure that Sovcomflot is sanctioned and denied access for their vessels to British ports.”

He went on to claim that allowing Sovcomflot to operate in Scapa Flow would “dishonour” the work of the 835 men and boys who drowned when the Royal Oak was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1939.

Nataliia Kuzmina, a Ukrainian living in Orkney, told the BBC she was angered that the vessel may arrive.

She said her parents remained in Ukraine and her father had volunteered to fight to defend their town but did not have any weapons.

She said: “Every little thing matters now.

“Hundreds of people around Europe will do some small act like this, stopping buying Russian products, stopping tankers being filled up with oil.”

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Ms Kuzmina added: “It matters and I feel it’s my duty to turn away this tanker from Scapa Flow.”

But Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, 46, revealed he discussed the issue with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, 58, on Saturday morning.

Mr Johnston said: “The United Kingdom has already closed our airspace to Russian airlines, and our waters should be closed to Russian state-owned shipping too.

“It is important that, given the actions already taken against Putin’s regime and its interests, we ensure there are no loopholes left available to be exploited by Russian state interests.”

A UK Government spokesman also said: “We are aware of concerns about Russian-connected ships potentially docking in the UK and we are working rapidly to explore a range of measures to restrict access for them.

“We are already discussing this issue with the Scottish government and the sanctions being considered are part of a wider package being worked up across the UK Government.”

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