A Russian destroyer fired warning shots at a cargo ship in the southwest Black Sea as it headed north on Sunday. This was the first time Russia has opened fire on merchant vessels outside of Ukraine since leaving a significant UN-mediated grain deal last month.
Russia stopped taking part in the Black Sea grain agreement, which permitted Ukraine to export agricultural goods over the Black Sea, in July. According to Moscow, all ships sailing into Ukrainian waters may be carrying armaments.
In a statement released on Sunday, Russia claimed that its Vasily Bykov patrol ship had opened fire with automatic weapons on the Sukru Okan ship, which was flying the flag of Palau, after the captain of the latter failed to stop the ship for an inspection.
The ship, according to Russia, was sailing in the direction of the Ukrainian port of Izmail. According to Refinitiv shipping data, the ship was, at the time, sailing towards the Sulina port in Romania while passing close to the Bulgarian coast. The Ministry of Defence of Russia, said, “To forcibly stop the vessel, warning fire was opened from automatic weapons.” It added that the Russian military boarded the vessel with the help of a Ka-29 helicopter. “After the inspection group completed its work on board, the Sukru Okan continued on its way to the port of Izmail.”
According to a Turkish defence ministry official, he had heard about an incident wherein, a ship was moving in direction of Romania and that Turkey was inspecting the matter.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s top advisor described the incident as a “clear violation of international law of the sea, an act of piracy, and a crime against civilian vessels of a third country in the waters of other states.”
On X, a social media website that was named Twitter, the advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak, stated that “Ukraine will draw all the necessary conclusions and choose the best possible response.”
The southern military command’s spokeswoman, Natalia Humeniuk, emphasised that no other official sources had backed up the Russian claims. She stated in televised remarks, “I believe that attention should be drawn to this and the peculiarities of hybrid warfare should be kept in mind.”
She asked for all travel and navigation in the Black Sea to be done under international safeguards and added, “This statement could be a signal to all civilian vessels in the Black Sea.” In the Black Sea, she continued, Russia was attempting to exert its right to stop a ship or station aircraft and “face no consequences.”
The threat of becoming entangled in the Black Sea, which is the primary route that both Russia and Ukraine utilise to transport their agricultural products to markets, will become even more acute if a commerce ship is attacked. Shipowners, insurers, and commodities merchants already have serious concerns about this risk.
Two of the world’s biggest agricultural producers are Russia and Ukraine, which are also significant producers of wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seeds, and sunflower oil markets. Russia’s dominance can be seen in the fertiliser market.
Moscow and Kiev have both issued threats and launched attacks since Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain agreement, causing fear in the world’s commodity, oil, and maritime markets.