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UK Foreign Ministry: Intelligence shows Russia may target Black Sea civilian shipping

Russia may use sea mines to target civilian shipping in the Black Sea to deter the Ukrainian grain exports, according to intelligence data, shared by the UK Foreign Office.
Ships grain corridor Black Sea
Ships await grain loading in Black Sea ports in July 2023. Photo: Ministry of Infrastructure
UK Foreign Ministry: Intelligence shows Russia may target Black Sea civilian shipping

The British Foreign Office says intelligence released on 4 September suggests Russia may use sea mines in the approach to Ukrainian ports to target civilian shipping in the Black Sea, blaming Ukraine for any attacks.

“The UK assesses Russia is seeking to target civilian shipping travelling through Ukraine’s ‘humanitarian corridor’ in order to deter the export of Ukrainian grain. This would continue Russia’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainian economy. 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 Foreign Office said in a statement.

The UK says it seeks to expose Russia’s tactics to deter any such incident from occurring by releasing our assessment of this intelligence. Also, Britain says it has deployed surveillance capabilities to monitor Russian actions in the Black Sea, enabling us to identify and respond to any Russian attacks on civilian ships or infrastructure.

 

Russia maintains a de-facto blockade of Ukrainian seaports from the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Last summer, the UN and Türkiye brokered a “grain deal” with Russia to enable Ukrainian agricultural exports by sea. Russia, however, exited the deal this summer, jeopardizing the exports, which prompted Ukraine to establish a temporary “humanitarian corridor” to re-enable safe passage for Ukrainian exports.

“We are committed to ensuring Ukraine can continue to export its agricultural produce through all appropriate routes including its ‘humanitarian corridor’, overland and via the Danube,” the UK Foreign Office wrote.

The British Foreign Office says since the withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia has:

  • damaged 130 port infrastructure facilities in Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Reni;

  • destroyed almost 300,000 tonnes of grain – more than the total amount Russia promised to donate to African states, and enough to feed over 1.3 million people for a year.

Prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion, Ukraine supplied food to 400 million people globally, accounting for 8-10% of global wheat exports and 10-12% of corn and barley exports. In 2022, Ukraine contributed over 50% of the World Food Programme’s wheat.

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