Two former Royal Navy minehunters handed over to Ukraine arrive in Portsmouth

The Chernihiv and Cherkasy at His Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth Credit: PA Media

Two former Royal Navy minehunter ships which have been handed over to the Ukrainian navy have arrived in Portsmouth as the crews undergo training to prepare them for missions in the Black Sea.

The Sandown-class warships, HMS Grimsby and HMS Shoreham, were decommissioned from the Royal Navy to be transferred to the Ukrainian military where they will operate under the names Chernihiv and Cherkasy.

The ships, which each served more than 20 years in the Royal Navy, arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base having sailed from Scotland.

They will remain based in Portsmouth while crew members undergo training to prepare them to hunt for mines in the Black Sea.

The Cherkasy minehunter arrives in Portsmouth Credit: LPhot Ollie Leach/MoD Crown Copyright/PA

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said, “The ships are currently not able to enter the Black Sea due to the terms of the Montreux Convention, which restricts passage of military vessels through the Bosporus Strait at times of war."

“However, they will form a critical capability for Ukraine in its future defence of its coastlines as the UK looks to support the longer-term capabilities of the Ukrainian navy, while they look to protect commercial shipping by detecting and disabling sea mines.”

Charge d’affaires of Ukraine Eduard Fesko told the PA news agency that the minehunters would be essential in reopening trade routes once the war is over.

He said, “They will continue the training here, from this base, and given that the minesweepers will be very, very important in the post-war period in cleaning up the Black Sea, I think it’s very important that we have these ships here."

“Once the war is over and the Black Sea will start to be cleaned up, it will be not only the undertaking of Ukraine, I’m sure other countries will also participate in these efforts but there will be none that will be more interested in making sure that the trade routes are safe as Ukraine because trade is the bloodline for our economy at the moment.”

Mr Fesko added that Ukraine’s current priority is increasing its anti-missile capability and said the international community is not providing enough support.

He said, “At the moment, the first, the second and the third priority is ensuring that Ukraine has sufficient anti-missile capabilities to protect from the incoming barrages of missiles, rockets and drones that are attacking our civilian infrastructure all over the country, including in Odessa, our main seaport."

“I don’t think we can say that we are happy with the level of support, with the level of deliveries that we have, but it is no secret that we have not been delivered what we have been promised.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said, “The UK is leading the way in helping Ukraine to modernise its Navy. The transfer of these ships and the excellent training provided by the Royal Navy will have a real long-term impact on Ukraine’s ability to defend its waters."

“We continue to support Ukraine as they deliver major blows to Putin’s Black Sea fleet."

“In doing so, they are securing vital corridors to export grain and other materials, supporting their economy in the face of Russia’s barbaric bombardment.”

The transfer of the vessels to Ukraine’s navy was announced to coincide with the launch of the Maritime Capability Coalition, which the UK jointly leads with Norway, to provide assistance to Ukraine’s navy – including training, equipment and infrastructure – and to increase security in the Black Sea region.

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The MoD spokesman said that Ukraine has sunk or disabled around a third of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since the start of the conflict through “precision-guided missile strikes and innovative use of maritime one-way attack drones”.

The spokesman explained that the transfer of the two minehunters was made possible by a “buyer credit facility guarantee” provided by the UK Government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance.

The transfer began last year with both ships taking part in major sea exercises Joint Warrior 23 and Exercise Sea Breeze 23, with similar plans this year.

The spokesman added that the UK was one of the largest military donors to Ukraine with £7 billion worth of support so far.