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The BBC's Stephen Dalziel
"The release of the Sedov may be one small step towards better relations between Moscow and Paris"
 real 28k

Monday, 24 July, 2000, 20:04 GMT 21:04 UK
Seized Russian ship sets sail
Sedov
The Sedov was the star attraction at the Brest regatta
An impounded Russian sailing ship has set sail after being released by a French court which had ordered its seizure 11 days ago.

The Sedov, believed to be the largest ship of its kind in the world, was seized by bailiffs at the port of Brest in accordance with a court order obtained by a Swiss trading company, Noga.

The company says it is owed $65m by the Russian Government, and immediately lodged an appeal against the court's decision to let the Sedov go.

Despite the last-minute appeal, hundreds of boating enthusiasts and local residents applauded as the Sedov sailed out of Brest port.

The presiding judge in Brest, Bertrand Louvel, on Monday ordered the "immediate, entire and definitive release" of the Sedov.

Judge Louvel ruled that the owners of the training vessel - the technical university in the northern port of Murmansk - could not be held accountable for Russian state debts.

Damages

The 117 metre (388 feet) Sedov was in France to take part in the Brest 2000 boating festival when it was impounded. It was temporarily released to take part in the festival but was ordered to return to port afterwards to await the court's ruling.

Sedov crew
The Sedov has more than 100 students on board
The court in Brest ruled that the impounding of the Sedov was illegal, and ordered Noga to pay damages of about $71,300 for what it called the "abuse characterised by carrying out a seizure" of the ship.

It also ordered Noga to pay $35,600 to the organisers of the Brest boating festival.

'Unfriendly gestures'

In another attempt to settle the Russian Government's debts, the French courts have frozen bank accounts belonging to the Russian diplomatic mission.

The incident has caused some friction in Franco-Russian relations.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, has called for the seizure of French property in Russia in retaliation for France's "unfriendly gestures".

The BBC's Russian affairs analyst, Stephen Dalziel, says the court's decision to release the Sedov may be one small step towards better relations between Moscow and Paris.

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