2 min read

UK says Russia plotting to sabotage Ukrainian grain vessels with sea mines

Featured Image

Based on ‘declassified intelligence’, UK says Russia targeting civilian shipping on approaches to Black Sea ports.

Britain has accused Russia of plotting to sabotage civilian cargo ships loaded with Ukrainian grain by planting sea mines on the approaches to the country’s Black Sea ports.

Based on what it said was declassified intelligence, the UK said Russia did not want to directly attack merchant vessels using Ukraine’s newly created humanitarian corridor with missiles, but instead try to destroy them covertly.


Russia would then seek to blame Ukraine for the loss of any shipping in an attempt to evade responsibility, the British Foreign Office continued, and the UK said it was going public in order to deter Moscow from carrying out the plan.

James Cleverly, the UK foreign secretary, accused Russia of the “pernicious targeting” of civilian shipping: “The world is watching – and we see right through Russia’s cynical attempts to lay blame on Ukraine for their attacks.”

Merchant ships carrying Ukrainian grain for export have been under threat since July, when Russia pulled out of a year-long initiative designed to safeguard food exports despite the war between the two countries.

Metis Insights: Black Sea Grain Initiative

Kyiv created an alternative humanitarian corridor in August, in which ships travel inside the territorial waters of Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, before passing close to Ukraine, where they are at risk of Russian attack. A handful of vessels have used the route, but safety concerns remain.

Experts say Russia has the capability to lay sea mines near Black Sea ports such as Odesa and Chornomorsk using its three Kilo-class submarines, each capable of carrying 24 mines. The fear of being mined may be enough to deter ships from taking Ukrainian grain to key markets in the Middle East, east Africa and beyond.

Britain said it wanted to work with Ukraine and others to improve the safety of merchant shipping, using intelligence and surveillance capabilities, although it acknowledges the threat from Russia remains “at the highest level”.

Last month, the UK said Russia had, in August, fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at a Libyan-flagged cargo ship in Odesa. Both, however, were successfully shot down by Ukraine, another reason Moscow may have considered a change of tactics.

Russia has been heavily targeting Ukraine’s ports and grain silos since July, and has destroyed an estimated 300,000 tonnes of grain in the process, enough, the UK Foreign Office said “to feed over 1.3 million people for a year”.

Before the start of the war, Ukraine accounted for 8-10% of global wheat exports and 10-12% of corn and barley exports.

Source: The Guardian