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In A First, Mexico 'Returns' Crimea Vessel To Ukraine

A screengrab from the website listing the specifications of the Crimean ship Titan-2

Ukraine's state gas company says Mexican prosecutors have ordered a seized ship belonging to a Crimean company to be returned to Ukraine rather than Russia.

Naftogaz, the ultimate owner of the ship, published the announcement on its website on February 18.

The ship, Titan-2, belongs to Chornomornaftogaz, a Naftogaz subsidiary registered in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula whose forced annexation by Russia in 2014 triggered international condemnation and Western sanctions against Moscow.

The vessel had been leased and subleased since 2003, until its latest operator, the Mexican company Oceanografia SA de CV, went bankrupt. Local financial institutions then seized the ship.

"This is the first case that another country's authorities have officially recognized the ownership rights of Chornomornaftogaz, which was re-registered in Kyiv after the Russian occupation of Crimea, of its property," the statement reads.

Titan-2 is a crane vessel designed to assemble, service, and disassemble floating drilling platforms. The transfer of the ship to Ukraine would give Kyiv the decision on how it should be used going forward.

Mexico's prosecutor's office has not publicly commented on the case.

In the first 10 months after Russia's takeover of Crimea, the Kremlin-imposed authorities on the peninsula seized more than $1 billion in real estate and other assets from Ukrainian owners, the New York Times has estimated.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said on January 6 that it would consider a case presented by Ihor Kolomoyskiy, Ukraine's third-richest person, who claims that he lost $15 million after the annexation because he was deprived of the right his company had to operate a passenger terminal at Crimea's Sevastopol International Airport until 2020.

As of September 2015, Ukraine estimated its losses from the Crimea annexation to be 1.2 trillion hryvnas ($55.5 billion).

In January, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine would file lawsuits against Russia in international courts over the Kremlin's seizure of the peninsula.