Ukraine to consider ships sailing to Russian or occupied ports as military targets

Ukraine will consider all ships heading to Russian ports in the Black Sea, as well as to ports in the temporarily occupied territories, as «carrying military cargo with all the relevant risks», according to a defense ministry warning issued on July 20.

«From 12 a.m. on July 21, 2023, all vessels sailing in the Black Sea in the direction of the seaports of the Russian Federation and Ukrainian seaports located in the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia may be considered by Ukraine as carrying military cargo with all the relevant risks,» the ministry said.

The notice stated that shipping in the areas of the northeastern part of the Black Sea and the Kerch-Yenikal Strait of Ukraine is «prohibited as dangerous» starting from 5 a.m. on July 20, 2023.

Relevant navigational information for sailors has already been published, the ministry’s press service added.

«The fate of the cruiser Moskva proves that the Ukrainian Defense Forces have the necessary means to repel Russian aggression at sea,» the statement reads.

Thus, the Ukrainian ministry responded to Russia’s threats against civilian vessels sailing to Ukrainian ports. The day before, on July 19, Russia said it would consider them «military targets.»

Two days earlier, Moscow officially announced its withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, citing the repeated attacks on the Crimean Bridge, and withdrew its guarantees of safety of navigation in the Black Sea.

On the same day, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proposed to extend the grain deal beyond July 17 without Russian participation, jointly with Turkey and the UN. According to media reports, Ukraine is already creating a temporary alternative route for food exports via the Black Sea through Romania’s territorial waters.