Twelve Ukrainian crew members working on a ship bound for Murmansk feared being detained by Russian officials upon arrival. They were thus allowed to go ashore in Norway’s northern city of Kirkenes over the weekend, after a crew change at sea.
The captain and crew had heard frightening stories of how vessels with Ukrainian crew arriving at Russian ports have been met by FSB agents, questioned and searched. “I didn’t think it was safe, none of us wanted to sail into Murmansk,” the bulk carrier’s captain, Volodymyr Zarytskij, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “When Russia is shooting us, bombing us and people in Ukraine are dying, we can’t sail to Russia and stand there and smile.”
They thus turned down offers of lucrative bonuses from the ship’s management if they continued to sail to Murmansk. They instead spent 10 days in the Barents Sea north of Varanger while they waited for those controlling the bulker Vitus Bering from Gdynia in Poland to find a new crew and for Norwegian authorities to approve the Ukrainian crew’s entry into Norway. Jon Bertil Myklebust of Henriksen Shipping Service in Kirkenes said local police handled the crew’s entry under ordinary passport control.
Most of them wanted to travel on to be reunited with their families, many of which have fled Ukraine and are now in Romania and Moldova. One of the crew members said his wife was on her way to Bergen, where he has relatives. He thinks they’ll apply for asylum in Norway.
“We’re all exhausted by this war,” he told NRK. “When God gave us the opportunity to remain in Norway, we took it.”