Court confirms ban on Shtandart docking in Brest

Court confirms ban on Shtandart docking in Brest
Court confirms ban on Shtandart docking in Brest

As a reminder, since June 24, 2022 and the war in Ukraine, all ships flying the Russian flag have been “banned from entering” European Union ports. The situation of this replica of Tsar Peter I’s flagship, built in 1999, has caused a lot of ink to flow in recent months: the State services had initially authorized it to sail in Brittany, before backtracking at the last minute, by means of this prefectural decree dated July 7, 2024.

Its captain, Vladimir Martus – who publicly displays his opposition to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but whose boat is accused of serving as a diplomatic instrument for his regime – had therefore taken the matter to the French courts: while he should have arrived this Thursday, July 11, 2024 in Brest, his boat was waiting off the Pointe de Toulinguet, not far from the Belem.

It was to carry 1,500 passengers during the holidays.

For his lawyer, Thierry Clerc, there was an “urgency” to suspend the effects of the decision. Especially since “on the State’s side, there was no urgency,” according to him. “The Prime Minister, the Directorate of Maritime Affairs… all have been saying for two years that it is not subject to the European Union regulation” which is now the subject of the motivation for this prefectural decree.

The Shtandart has also “signed a contract”, since August 19, 2023: it must participate in “a huge number of events” during the Brest Maritime Festival, since it is planned that it “will transport 1,500 passengers” and that it will participate in the parade from Brest to Douarnenez, which required “significant logistics” and should provide it with “a significant sum of money”.

His captain is therefore suffering “significant financial loss”, even though no “disturbance to public order” has been invoked by the State services, added the lawyer from the Rouen bar. “It is simply the European regulations that have changed”, he whispered before the interim relief judge of the administrative court of Rennes.

A change of flag, “at the request of the government”

On the merits, there is “a serious doubt” about the legality of this order, according to him, to the extent that “the ship has not been under the Russian flag since June 6, 2024.” The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, had, in fact, “contacted” the Shtandart, on April 16, 2024, so that it “changes flag” at the “request of the French government.” It now flies the flag of the Cook Islands.

The captain, Vladimir Martus, therefore ultimately simply has “the misfortune of being Russian”, while he has been living in Europe “since 2009” with “his boats”, his lawyer summed up. The mother of this man whom “everyone likes” is also “Ukrainian”, argued Me Thierry Clerc.

Denis Revel, the director of the office of the prefect of Finistère, for his part, told the judge that this administrative decision was “only a reminder of the law”. There was “no intention” to harm his captain, assured the official, since “until recently the interpretation chosen was favourable to him”. And if the Shtandart did indeed “change flag” recently, it did not “have the right to do so after” the change in legislation. But it was “the government (that) advised him to do so”, retorted the ship’s lawyer.

Three hours after the hearing, the interim relief judge of the Rennes administrative court finally issued his order, unfavourable to Vladimir Martus: “None” of his arguments are of a nature to “create serious doubt as to the legality” of this order.

The administrative court of Rennes will review the legality of this order again by a collegiate panel of three judges within eighteen months to two years; if it were to be annulled a posteriori, then the Shtandart would be entitled to seek compensation from the French State.

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