For the first time since Russia pulled out of a historic UN-brokered grain agreement last month, a Russian warship fired on commercial vessels outside Ukraine on Sunday. These were “warning shots” fired at a cargo ship in the southern Black Sea.
After concluding that any ship headed for Ukrainian seas may be carrying weapons, Russia pulled out of a Black Sea grain pact that had permitted Ukraine to export agricultural goods through the Black Sea. Following the captain of the Palauan-flagged Sukru Okan’s refusal to stop for an inspection, the Russian defense ministry claimed in a statement that the patrol ship Vasily Bykov had opened fire with automatic weapons.
With the assistance of a Ka-29 helicopter, Russian military personnel could board the ship, check her, and send it on its journey to the port of Izmail.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s top advisor said the event violated international sea laws. He said it was piracy, and targeting a third country’s civilian vessel in another state’s territorial water is criminal.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian advisor, said on X, “Ukraine will draw all the necessary conclusions and choose the best possible response.”
Military spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk said Russia attempted to demonstrate that it could detain a ship or send in planes wherever it pleased in the Black Sea without ” facing the consequences.”
The Black Sea is the principal route that Ukraine and Russia utilize to get their agricultural goods to market, and the firing on a commerce vessel would amplify the fears of shipowners, insurers, and commodities dealers about the possible perils of being entangled there. Commodity, energy, and transportation markets have been tense since Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain agreement due to threats and assaults from Moscow and Kyiv.
Russia has said it would consider any ships near Ukrainian ports to be potential war vessels and the nations whose flags such ships fly under to be Ukrainian fighters.
Ukraine assaulted a Russian oil tanker and a cruiser near a prominent grain and oil port in Novorossiysk. According to Ukraine and the West, Russia’s actions amounted to a de facto blockade of Ukrainian ports, which might halt the export of Ukrainian wheat and sunflower seeds. Russia disagrees with this understanding and claims the West did not follow through on a deal to relax limits for Russian agricultural and fertilizer exports.