Russia Drops Mines as It Renews Efforts to Disrupt Ukrainian Shipping

bulker departing Ukraine
Large Chinese-owned bulker departing Ukraine is among the 50 ships to have used the corridor (Oleksandr Kubrakov/X)

Published Oct 25, 2023 4:33 PM by The Maritime Executive


Ukrainian military sources are reporting increased Russian efforts apparently aimed at the humanitarian shipping corridor established in the Black Sea. The Russian actions appear to be coming in response to Ukraine highlighting growth in the shipping activity.

Last week, Ukraine reported that a total of 50 ships had transited its temporary shipping corridor since it was launched in August. They said that more than 30 ships had loaded exports and that all three of Ukraine’s main Black Sea ports were functioning. Ships are making the transit following the corridor which travels west from Ukraine along the coastline of the Black Sea through Romanian and Bulgarian waters before reaching Turkey.

“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 in its daily updates two days ago. The military force provides daily updates on social media channels.

Today, they reported 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. They are warning that in recent days Russia has introduced additional rockets and missiles, but so far none have been used on civilian shipping. In addition, the periodic attacks mostly with drones or sometimes rockets, continue primarily in the seaport region around Odesa.

The reports that Russia is again dropping mines follow warnings by the UK and others that Russia might be mining the approaches to the ports. Reports emerged over the past month of at least three ships encountering mines. Turkey denied the reports that one of its ships was hit by a mine but confirmed a nearby explosion.

The accounts of new efforts using mines came as Ukrainian news outlet Ukinform reports President Volodymyr Zelenskyy highlighted the success in restoring Black Sea shipping during his online speech at the Second Parliamentary Summit of the International Crimea Platform. They reported that Zelenskyy highlighted that 50 ships have now loaded at Ukrainian seaports since the new export corridor was established. Using the ports along the Danube and the three Black Sea ports, Zelenskyy said Ukraine has shipped about 700,000 tones of grain, mainly to Europe and Africa, since the new temporary export route was established.

“Ukraine has been able to restore the Black Sea to its role as a secure artery critical to global food stability,” they report Zelenskyy said during his speech. “Without our agricultural exports, the price crisis in the food market and social chaos become a threat to dozens of different nations from the western coast of Africa to Bangladesh, to Indonesia. This is a cornerstone: when Ukrainian food exports disappear, the entire global food market is disrupted.”

Zelenskyy said that another 50 ships are expected to arrive soon at Ukraine’s seaports. He emphasized that a steady stream of ships is using the corridor despite the dangers from Russia.