Russian Warship Fires Warning Shots, Boards Cargo Ship Nearing Ukraine

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a Russian warship fired warning shots and boarded a cargo ship — the Palau-flagged Sukra Okan — on Sunday, alleging it was en route to Ukraine via the Black Sea.

FILE PHOTO: Russian Navy patrol ship Vasily Bykov sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo

Russia withdrew from a United Nations and Turkish-mediated agreement in July, which had permitted Ukraine to transport grain via the Black Sea. The nation warned that ships bound for Ukraine could potentially be carrying weapons, a threat mirrored by Ukraine for vessels headed to Russian ports.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that the Sukra Okan was bound for the Ukrainian port of Izmail. However, current data from marine traffic websites indicate the cargo vessel’s destination as the Romanian port of Sulina, situated near Izmail. Kyiv has yet to comment on whether the ship was indeed heading to a Ukrainian port.

The warship reportedly resorted to automatic small arms fire to halt the vessel after the Sukra Okan’s captain failed to respond to a request for inspection. The ministry added, “In order to inspect the bulk cargo ship, a Ka-29 helicopter with a group of Russian servicemen was hoisted from the patrol ship Vasily Bykov. Following radio conversations, the ship ceased its course, and the boarding team landed on the bulk cargo ship.”

 

Earlier this week, Ukraine declared the opening of a temporary humanitarian corridor for ships to access its ports and commenced registration for merchant vessels to use the sea route.

Amidst the ongoing conflict, the grain transport deal between Russia and Ukraine — both major grain producers — served as a rare point of agreement and significantly stabilized prices. Kyiv has argued that Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement effectively blockades Ukrainian exports, while Russia has long lamented its inability to export its foodstuffs.

Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Navy, said the temporary corridors aim to mitigate the global food security crisis and enable shipowners and companies to “finally take back their merchant vessels that are in humanitarian captivity due to the constant threats of Russians at sea.”

Pletenchuk assured that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will aid in securing merchant ships traversing the corridors, with the Navy “doing everything we can to ensure security.” However, it remains uncertain when these routes might see use given the potential risks.


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