What We Know:
British intelligence reported that they have information that points to Russia targeting civilian ships in the black sea, specifically those carrying grain. So far, the intelligence service has not provided solid evidence of this claim. Ukraine has been gaining power in the Black Sea after carrying out multiple drone attacks that have damaged Russian ships in the region. An unnamed Ukrainian official said Russia is laying the mines in the water because their commanders fear getting to close to the shore and getting targeted by Ukrainian missiles.
The British Foreign Office said that Russia is likely aiming to “deter the export of Ukrainian grain” which has been a staple of the Ukrainian economy. Declassified information shows Russia may continue to target civilian ships indirectly through laying mines and shifting the blame to Ukrainian forces. Andrii Chernyak, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military intelligence said that they have seen the Russian’s mining the waters near Ukrainian ports.
Why it Matters:
Historically, Ukraine has been one of the worlds largest grain exporters. In the beginning of the war, Russia had promised not to target civilian grain ships. As the war has gone on, Russia has only directly sank a few ships, but they have tried to do more to prevent the export of the grain to other countries.
Ukrainian command believes that Russian warships do not want to get close to the Ukrainian ports due to the possibility of missile attacks which is why they are mining the region so heavily. In order to avoid famine in some of their export destinations, Ukraine set up a “humanitarian corridor” but they now believe that is what Russia will likely target.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been attending meetings with European leaders work on “joint action on global food security and protection of freedom of navigation”.
Russia has denied all claims of targeting civilian ships. The Russian Defense ministry has also not responded to the British allegations.
There will likely be more on this to come. Ukraine has done well at attacking the Black Sea Fleet and forcing them to stay closer to Russian ports. Even without a large navy Ukraine has posed a significant threat to the Russian navy, especially within the last few weeks.
With the damage done to Russian warships, it will likely loosen Putin’s grip on the sea lanes within the Black Sea.