The Russian military will consider all ships sailing to Ukrainian ports as military targets and the countries under whose flag they sail as participants in the war on Kiev’s side, the Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
The decision comes into effect from 00:00 Moscow time on July 20 and was made “in connection with the termination of the Black Sea Initiative and the winding down of the maritime humanitarian corridor”, the ministry said in a statement.
“All vessels in the waters of the Black Sea going to Ukrainian ports will be considered as potential carriers of military cargo. <…> The flag countries of such vessels will be considered to be involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime”, the Defense Ministry warned.
Russia announced on July 17 that it was withdrawing from the “grain deal”, which involved exporting 33 million tons of food to world markets. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that it was withdrawing guarantees of safe navigation in the Black Sea, and the Kremlin, on behalf of presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, threatened “military risks” if grain was exported without Moscow’s consent.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded by instructing the Foreign Ministry to propose to the UN and Turkey that the “grain corridor” be reopened without Moscow’s participation. However, the issue of security guarantees for grain carriers remains unresolved. Turkey, one of the guarantors of the deal with Russia, does not want to include its fleet in the escort of grain ships and considers such a step risky, a source familiar with the situation told Bloomberg. The USA has also refused to provide military escort to ships leaving Ukrainian ports.