Russia may attack civilian ships with sea mines and blame Ukraine, UK warns

Foreign secretary James Cleverly says UK’s maritime security level for Ukrainian ports ‘remains at highest level’

Ted Hennessey
Thursday 05 October 2023 05:26 BST
James Cleverly said Vladimir Putin has a ‘total disregard’ for civilian lives (Henry Nicholls/PA)
James Cleverly said Vladimir Putin has a ‘total disregard’ for civilian lives (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

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Russia may use sea mines to target non-military ships and blame Ukraine for any attacks, the UK Government has said.

Declassified intelligence warned last month that the Russian military had attempted a missile strike against a cargo ship in the Black Sea.

The UK believes Russia could continue targeting civilian shipping, including by laying explosive devices in the approach to Ukrainian ports.

However, Vladimir Putin’s army wants to openly avoid sinking ships in order to blame Ukraine for attacks, the Government said.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly said: “Russia’s pernicious targeting of civilian shipping in the Black Sea demonstrates Putin’s total disregard for civilian lives and the needs of the world’s most vulnerable.

Our advice to British shipping has not changed - the UK’s maritime security level for Ukrainian ports and waters remains at the highest level due to the threat posed by Russia

Foreign Office statement

“The world is watching – and we see right through Russia’s cynical attempts to lay blame on Ukraine for their attacks. We and our allies stand united against Putin and his attempts to harm Ukraine, and thus harm the rest of the world.”

When the conflict between Russia and Ukraine began in February 2022, around 22 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain meant for export was reportedly stuck.

Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain initiative in July of this year, which had been an effort to ship grain out of Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest wheat producers, to countries in Africa and other parts of the world which could otherwise face famine.

Continued targeting of ships would therefore be an attempt to pressure the Ukrainian economy, the UK Government says.

It is believed since Russia’s withdrawal, enough grain to feed more than one million people for a year has been destroyed.

A statement by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “We are working with Ukraine and other partners to put in place arrangements to improve the safety of shipping. Our advice to British shipping has not changed – the UK’s maritime security level for Ukrainian ports and waters remains at the highest level due to the threat posed by Russia.

“The UK has put in place intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to monitor Russian activity in the Black Sea. These capabilities will help us to attribute and call out any further Russian attacks on civilian shipping or infrastructure.

“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 will continue to work with Ukraine and a range of international partners to achieve this.”

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