The growth in the level of activity in Ukraine’s unilateral ‘humanitarian” coastal Black Sea corridor from Odesa and other ports down to Istanbul, which began operating in September, has seen Russia step up its threats to the safety of the route, according to Ukrainian military sources.
Russia said when the route was announced that any ships using it would be treated as potential military threats, but this has not stopped a number of vessels, many of them linked to Blumenthal Asia Pte of Singapore, linked to the Hamburg-based shipping business, heading to the Black Sea ports, loading, and heading out again.
Ukraine has reported that a total of 50 ships had transited its temporary shipping corridor since it was launched in August, although this appeared to include some “double-counting” of ships going in and coming back out again. It said that more than 30 ships had loaded exports and that all three of Ukraine’s main Black Sea ports (Odesa, Chornomorsk, Yuzhne) were functioning.
The ships spend as much time as possible in the waters of Romania and Bulgaria, while taking a variable route from the Ukrainian ports to the area south of the entrances to the Danube, which is where the Ukrainian and Romanian borders meet.
“The Black Sea also recorded the activity of tactical aviation with another dropping of unidentified objects in the direction of humanitarian navigation corridors of civil shipping,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South wrote recently as part of a daily update. The authorities have now reported that that Russian forces “dropped four unidentified means of impact (probably bottom mines) in the Black Sea in the direction of navigation corridors of civil shipping.” In addition, they are reporting that Russia now has six warships in the region, including five in the Black Sea and one in the Sea of Azov.
The Command claimed that in recent days Russia had introduced additional rockets and missiles, but so far none had been used on civilian shipping. In addition, periodic attacks, mostly with drones or sometimes rockets, continue primarily in the seaport region around Odesa.
The reports that Russia is again dropping mines have followed warnings by the UK and others that Russia might be mining the approaches to the ports.