If a modern person is told that the Taiwanese once seized a Soviet tanker going to China, then he will most likely wrinkle his nose in disbelief. This is more likely to be expected from the guys from the African coast, but not from the people of Asia. However, such an incident did take place. Moreover, his resolution stretched out over many decades. It all ended not so well as one might have hoped.
1. "Other" Chinese
For a long time, China remained a colony under the control of Great Britain, France and the United States, which openly plundered the ancient Asian empire of faded glory. However, due to numerous uprisings, the colonial yoke weakened. In 1911, the bourgeois Xinhai Revolution took place in China, which overthrew the monarchy. After that, a pro-Japanese government was established in the Celestial Empire, which did not meet the interests of the majority of the population. It was fought by both the left wing of society, represented by the Chinese Communist Party, and the right wing, represented by the Kuomintang party. In 1927, the paths of the Chinese "reds" and "whites" parted, and a civil war began, which lasted until 1949, when the remnants of the "white" army of Chiang Kai-shek were driven to the island of Taiwan.
During the civil war in China, the Kuomintang was supported first by the Weimar Republic of Germany and Tibet, then by the Third Reich, then by the United States. The Chinese communists were supported by the Soviet Union and a number of socialist or pro-socialist Asian regimes. Thus, by the end of the civil war, the USSR and the remnants of the Kuomintang forces were natural opponents. At the same time, in 1945, the Cold War began between the United States and the Soviet Union. On this basis, and there was an incident with the Soviet tanker "Tuapse" in the neutral waters of the South China Sea.
2. Capture of a Soviet tanker
The Tuapse tanker left Odessa for Shanghai in May 1954. The tanker was carrying ten thousand gallons of aviation kerosene, which was intended for the PLA Air Force. In the neutral waters of the South China Sea, he was met by two destroyers flying the flag of Taiwan. After firing several warning shots, they escorted the tanker to the place where the boarding ship was already waiting for it. Several hundred Thai soldiers, among whom were American military advisers, disembarked from the barge on the Tuapse. The Thais quickly took control of the ship, and the Americans, meanwhile, seized all the ship's documentation. The last thing that the captain of the Soviet tanker managed to transmit on the radio: "The ship has been hijacked!"
The Soviet Union did not recognize the Taiwanese government and understood perfectly well who was behind the organization of this action. A protest note was sent to the United States. Discussion of the incident began at the UN level. Concern over the seizure of Tuapse was expressed, among other things, by the US allies in the person of New Zealand and Australia, who were not so much worried about the fate of the Soviet ship and sailors as worried that this "trick" would become an excellent reason for the USSR to increase its military presence in Asia, as well as increase its naval presence, including in the South China Sea.
3. Heroes and traitors
But while politicians and diplomats argued at the UN, Chiang Kai-shek's supporters continued to hold onto the ship and 49 crew members. All of them were immediately divided into groups of 10-15 people and sent to prison on starvation rations. CIA officers began to work with Soviet sailors and officers, who convinced them by hook or by crook to apply for political asylum in the United States. Thus, the Americans hoped to get a propaganda trump card, showing that people flee from the USSR at the first opportunity. While some prisoners were “processed” with promises of a sweet and carefree life, others were subjected to more radical methods: physical and psychological violence, including beatings and threats of the death penalty. At some point, the sailors even lied that the Third World War had already begun and the USSR was losing it.
Although France was an ally of the United States, it had some differences with the stronghold of bourgeois democracy. In addition, France was still present in the Asian region, and therefore helped to put the necessary pressure on America and Taiwan. Not without her help, the Soviet Union was able to secure the release of 29 crew members, including the captain of the Tuapse, Vitaly Kalinin. The released sailors were checked by the KGB: not one of them succumbed to the admonitions and intimidation of the Americans. At home, 29 sailors and officers were greeted as heroes. Subsequently, everyone received monetary compensation and good positions in the navy. Some also had to be referred for treatment as they were seriously malnourished.
The fate of the remaining 20 sailors was not so happy. Nine people agreed to leave for the United States and criticize the Soviet system on the radio. Some time later, five of them fled to the Soviet embassy. At home they were greeted with extreme restraint, after which they were sentenced to 10 years for treason. Four more remaining in the United States were sentenced by the Soviet court in absentia to death under the same article. One of them was Mikhail Ivankov-Nikolov. By 1959, he had lost his mind, and the Americans simply gave him to the USSR as unnecessary.
Of course, no one began to shoot the distraught Nikolov in his homeland, he was placed in a psychiatric hospital, where he spent almost 20 years. Two more sailors died in exile, one committed suicide. The four left for Latin America, from where they moved to their homeland in the USSR. There they were awaited by a trial and punishment in the form of 15 years in prison. The remaining 4 sailors from Tuapse were unable to get out of Taiwan, but refused their applications, indicating that they agreed to them under pressure. For this, the Americans put them in a local prison. The Soviet Union managed to get them out through Singapore only 34 years later - in 1988.
As for the Tuapse, the tanker never returned home. It was recruited by the Chinese, renaming it "Kuaiji".
If you want to know even more interesting things, then you should definitely read about how Soviet soldiers left many autographs on the Reichstag: what happened to them after the war.