Moves by Ukraine to open up an alternative shipping route across the Black Sea from the Danube to Istanbul have stimulated a rapid response by Russia with Russian strikes on the Ukrainian port of Izmail hitting port and grain infrastructure in an area close to the Romanian border. Russian state news agency RIA said overnight that the infrastructure “housed foreign mercenaries and military hardware”. RIA also said that a target was a naval ship repair yard.
RIA cited Sergei Lebedev, a man it described as a coordinator of an underground group in the Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv and who it said had sources in Izmail, Ukraine’s main inland port across the Danube River from Romania. It quoted Lebedev as saying that there had been eight separate Russian strikes on Izmail and that an oil terminal had been hit, a repair yard for Ukrainian naval cutters, a port building thought to house foreign forces, and a grain storage unit and elevator where it said foreign military hardware was stored.
A video released by the Ukrainian authorities showed firefighters on ladders battling a huge blaze in a multi-story building. Several other large buildings were in ruins, and grain had spilled out of at least two wrecked silos.
Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia’s repeated attacks on Ukraine’s Danube infrastructure near Romania were unacceptable. “Russia’s continued attacks against the Ukrainian civilian infrastructure on Danube, in the proximity of Romania, are unacceptable. These are war crimes and they further affect capacity to transfer their food products towards those in need in the world,” Iohannis said on social media.
Ukraine regional head Oleh Kiper said that a grain silo had been damaged, but gave no further details.
Ukraine’s air force earlier said Russian drones were heading towards Izmail, which is a key port on the Danube
In July, Russia destroyed grain storage infrastructure in Reni, a major Ukrainian port on the Danube.
The strikes by Russia came as Ukraine was claiming that it had “broken the blockade” set up by Russia.
General cargo ship AMS 1 (IMO 9019999) had become one of the first vessels to use a new method to get Ukrainian grain out of the country, Ukraine claimed. The vessel arrived in the Danube to pick up grain from Izmail. The plan would appear to be for it to head into the Black Sea and then to stay relatively close to the Romanian and then Bulgarian coasts as it headed towards Istanbul.
The announced “breaking of the blockade” was perhaps a bit premature, as the job was only half done. While the AMS 1 had succeeded in reaching the important Ukrainian Danube port of Izmail, having left Ashood, Israel, on July 16th, its next task would be to get out again, with the grain on board.
There have been no attempts by Ukraine so far to reach any of the three ports that were previously part of the Black Sea Grain Corridor agreement – Yuzhne, Chornomorsk and Odesa.
The three announced ships were relatively small – and old – compared with the average size and age of the cargo ships that had transited the Black Sea as part of the now dead corridor agreement.
The AMS 1 was said to be the first of three ships that would make the same voyage. The other two were the Şahin 2 (IMO 8817198) and Yılmaz Kaptan (IMO 8132598).
An American P8 reconnaissance aircraft was reported to have been following the ship for safety reasons.
1991-built, Sierra Leone-flagged, 2,727 gt AMS 1 is owned and managed by Amir Maritime Services LLC care of Ertug Muharrem Erol Gemi Isletmeciligi of Istanbul, Turkiye. ISM manager is Nevzat Aydin Denizcilik of Istanbul, Turkiye. As of August 2nd the vessel was on the Danube, some 20 miles from the Black Sea.
1988-built, Vanuatu-flagged, 1,882 gt Sahin 2 is owned by RS Shipping Ltd care of manager Baba Gemi Isletmeciligi of Istanbul, Turkiye. It had left Souda, Crete, Greece, on July 27th and as of August 7th was at anchor off the Danube tributary in the Black Sea, awaiting orders.
1979-built, Vanuatu-flagged, 942 gt Yilmaz Kaptan appears as the Kudrut Gezer in Equasis. It is owned and managed by Su Deryasi Denizcilik of Istanbul, Turkiye. It had left Poti, Georgia on July 21st and arrived at Galati, Romania, on July 31st. As of August 2nd it was at anchor in the Black Sea off the Danube tributary.
It might be noted that of the dozens of ships at anchor off the mouth of the Danube, nearly all are situated south of an extension of the line that designates the border between Ukraine and Romania.