Russia could hit civilian ships with sea mines and blame Ukraine, Foreign Office claims

A bulk grain cargo ship anchored in the Black Sea.
A Ukrainian grain ship. Credit: AP

Russia may use sea mines to target non-military ships and blame Ukraine for any attacks, the British government has said.

Declassified intelligence warned last month that the Russian military had attempted a missile strike against a cargo ship in the Black Sea.

The UK believes Russia could continue targeting civilian shipping, including by laying explosive devices in the approach to Ukrainian ports.

Vladimir Putin’s army wants to openly avoid sinking ships to make it look like a mistake by the Ukrainians rather than a deliberate targetted attack, the report claimed.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: "Russia’s pernicious targeting of civilian shipping in the Black Sea demonstrates Putin’s total disregard for civilian lives and the needs of the world’s most vulnerable.

A grain storage terminal in Odesa on the Black Sea coast. Credit: AP

"The world is watching – and we see right through Russia’s cynical attempts to lay blame on Ukraine for their attacks. We and our allies stand united against Putin and his attempts to harm Ukraine, and thus harm the rest of the world.”

When the conflict between Russia and Ukraine began in February 2022, around 22 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain meant for export was reportedly stuck.

Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain initiative in July of this year, which had been an effort to ship grain out of Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest wheat producers, to countries in Africa and other parts of the world which could otherwise face famine.

Continued targeting of ships would be an attempt to pressure the Ukrainian economy.

It is believed since Russia’s withdrawal, enough grain to feed more than one million people for a year has been destroyed.

Nato has put in place numerous surveillance and reconnaissance monitors in both the Black Sea and Baltic Sea since the start of the conflict so any large-scale mining operation may be quickly detected.

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