Russia and Ukraine warn each other’s ships of impending conflict. In response to Moscow’s threats, Kyiv has warned that all ships calling at Russian-controlled Black Sea ports “may be considered by Ukraine to be carrying military cargo with all the associated risks.”
The warning, issued by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense on Thursday, goes into effect at midnight on Friday (21:00 GMT on Thursday).
In its message, the Ukrainian ministry also mentioned the destruction of the Russian cruiser Moskva by missiles over a year ago. On multiple occasions, the Ukrainian navy has employed naval drones against the Russian Black Sea fleet and presumably also against the Crimean peninsula bridge.
Previously, Russia had also threatened ships calling on Ukrainian ports by rescinding previous security guarantees.
Russia stated that ships traveling to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports would be considered potential military targets. Kyiv announced it would establish a provisional shipping route to continue grain exports after Moscow’s withdrawal from an agreement allowing food shipments from Ukraine’s ports.
On Wednesday, the Russian defense ministry announced that it would consider all ships traveling to Ukraine potentially transporting military cargo on behalf of Kyiv and that the flag countries of such ships would be regarded as parties to the Ukrainian conflict.
The defense ministry announced in a statement on the Telegram messaging app that its new policy towards ships in the Black Sea would take effect at midnight Moscow time (Wednesday at 21:00 GMT).
The defense ministry did not specify any potential actions against ships traveling to Ukraine.
Russia also declared portions of the Black Sea’s southeastern and northwest international waters to be temporarily hazardous for navigation, the ministry said, without providing specifics about the affected areas.
Ukraine announced on Wednesday that it would establish a temporary transport route via Romania, a neighboring Black Sea nation.
In a letter to the United Nations shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization, Ukraine’s acting minister for communities, territories, and infrastructure development stated, “Its purpose is to facilitate the unblocking of international shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.”
Yulia Shapovalova of Al Jazeera reported from Moscow that Russia’s defense ministry stated all international ships traveling towards Ukrainian ports, stating that “as of July 20 at midnight, all ships sailing in the Black Sea and approaching Ukrainian ports will be considered carriers of military cargo involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the Kyiv side.”
Wednesday’s announcement from Moscow coincided with a senior White House official’s statement that Russia was contemplating attacking civilian ships in the Black Sea and then blaming Ukrainian forces.
According to the Associated Press, White House National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said, “Our information indicates that Russia has placed additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports.”
Hodge stated, “We believe this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and place the blame on Ukraine.”
Russia was using food as a “weapon of war,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Wednesday, noting that Moscow had threatened ships in international waters for two consecutive days and attacked the Ukrainian port city of Odesa for two straight nights.
Miller told reporters, “I believe it should be abundantly clear to everyone in the world right now that Russia is using food as a weapon of war.” “Not only against the Ukrainian people but against all people in the world, especially the most underdeveloped nations that rely on grain from the region,” he stated.
The Russian warning to shipping, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, “underscores the fact that we are working and will continue to work in what is effectively a warzone.”
The Black Sea cereal trade
Ukraine’s Black Sea ports were blocked by warships at the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 until the Black Sea grain agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, reopened Ukraine’s ports and grain exports to global markets.
After months of complaining that a related agreement allowing for exporting Russian food and fertilizers had not been honored, the Kremlin announced on Monday that it was withdrawing from the deal.
In addition, Moscow had accused Ukraine of employing the Black Sea grain corridor for “combat purposes.”
The international community has condemned Russia’s withdrawal from the accord, as it has reignited fears of rising grain and food prices. Mainly impoverished African nations rely on Ukrainian cereals.
Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Moscow would only return to the one-year-old agreement if certain conditions were fulfilled. Among these are assurances that Russian exports of fertilizers and food could reach the global market. The United States and European Union deny that their sanctions prevent the export of the goods.
Russia launched a massive missile and drone attack on the Ukrainian naval city of Odesa for the second consecutive night on Wednesday.
Odesa was the primary port of departure for agricultural exports from Ukraine under the now-defunct grain agreement.
According to the Ukrainian military, grain and cooking oil terminals, storage containers, and ship-loading facilities were destroyed. According to the report, storage facilities were devastated in the Odesa metropolitan area.
We have not witnessed such a massive attack since the commencement of the [Russian] invasion. Wednesday, Odesa Mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov posted on Facebook.
“Russian terrorists are deliberately targeting the infrastructure of the grain agreement, and every Russian missile is a blow not only to Ukraine but to everyone in the world who aspires to live a normal and secure life,” he wrote on Telegram.
In his Wednesday night address to the nation, Zelenskyy pleaded with Western allies to assist Ukraine in bolstering its air defenses to counter attacks similar to the one that struck Odesa.