The UK foreign office has disclosed in a statement that Russia was planning of planting sea mines on the approaches to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
The use of sea mines was to deter civilian ships travelling through a “humanitarian corridor” established by Ukraine to facilitate grain exports from the Black Sea ports.
Citing intelligence assessments, the foreign office said that Russia wanted to destroy the ships secretly.
“Russia almost certainly wants to avoid openly sinking civilian ships, instead falsely laying blame on Ukraine for any attacks against civilian vessels in the Black Sea,” the statement noted.
“By releasing our assessment of this intelligence, the UK seeks to expose Russia’s tactics to deter any such incident from occurring,” it added.
Before the start of the war, Ukraine accounted for 8-10% of global wheat exports and 10-12% of corn and barley exports.
Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain agreement in July and has since stepped up aerial attacks on Ukraine’s ports, damaging 130 infrastructure facilities and destroying nearly 300,000 tonnes of grain.
Shortly after leaving the grain deal, Russia announced that ships in the vicinity of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports would be considered potential supporters of Kyiv’s war efforts and “parties to the Ukrainian conflict.”
Kyiv created an alternative humanitarian corridor in August, in which ships travel inside the territorial waters of Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, before passing close to Ukraine, where they are at risk of Russian attack.
A handful of vessels have used the route, but safety concerns remain.
In its latest Ukraine war monitoring report, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), stated that recent attacks on Sevastopol by Kyiv were likely responsible for Moscow recently transferring the Black Sea fleet vessel from Crimea to the Russian port of Novorossiysk in the Krasnodar Krai region of Russia.
Satellite imagery between October 1 and 3 showed that Russia had transferred 10 vessels to Novorossiysk from Sevastopol, the ISW said.
UK Foreign Secretary Accuses Russia Of Attacking Civilian Ships
James Cleverly, the UK Foreign Secretary, accused Russia of the “pernicious targeting” of civilian shipping.
“The world is watching – and we see right through Russia’s cynical attempts to lay blame on Ukraine for their attacks,” Cleverly added.
Last month, the UK accused Russia of attempting to attack a civilian cargo ship at a port in the Black Sea on August 24 in a missile attack it said was successfully thwarted by Ukrainian air defence systems.
Meanwhile, experts claim that Russia has the capability to lay sea mines near Black Sea ports such as Odesa and Chornomorsk using its three Kilo-class submarines, each capable of carrying 24 mines.
The fear of being mined may be enough to deter ships from taking Ukrainian grain to key markets in the Middle East, east Africa and beyond.
Although it acknowledged that the threat from Russia remains “at the highest level,” the UK said that it wanted to work with Kyiv and other partners to improve the safety of Ukrainian shipping, using its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to monitor Russian activity in the Black Sea.