Ukraine has effectively declared war on Russia’s Black Sea warning of serious repercussions if the movement of grain is further halted.
In a show of strength and defiance Kyiv said all movements by Moscow on the strategically important waterway were now legitimate targets.
It comes after Vladimir Putin reneged on a deal to safely transport grain through the Black Sea.
Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said: “Everything the Russians are moving back and forth on the Black Sea are our valid military targets. This story started with Russia blocking the grain corridor, threatening to attack our vessels, destroying our ports. Our maritime infrastructure is under constant attack.”
Moscow has regularly unleashed a ferocious volley of missile and drone strikes on southern and eastern Ukraine, bombarding the strategic Black Sea port of Odesa.
It is the besieged country’s main port for exporting grain and often attacked since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
The attacks are seen as proof Russia wants to endanger the lives of 400 million people in scores of countries who depend on Ukrainian food exports.
The UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative allowed 100,000 tonnes of Ukrainian food to be exported every day but Putin has suspended Russia’s participation, despite it stabilising global food prices and, according to the UN, indirectly prevented 100 million people from falling into poverty and hunger.
Russia has also unleashed a series of missile attacks on agricultural stores and ports.
Ukraine has declared the waters around Russia’s Black Sea ports a “war risk area” from August 23 “until further notice”. The zone includes major Russian ports like Novorossiysk, Anapa, Gelendzhik, Tuapse, Sochi and Taman, raising the spectre of giant oil tankers, on which Europe relies, being torpedoed.
Russia’s federal maritime agency, Rosmorrechflot, claimed one had been struck in an apparent hit by Ukrainian forces sailing close to the country’s occupied Crimean peninsula.
Last month, Russia shipped almost 59 million barrels of crude oil, one third of its overall exports, from the strategic Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. Of the total 32 million barrels went to EU countries. The port also handles other fuels like diesel, gasoil and naphtha in addition to grain destined for the global market.
Novorossiysk is also where the Caspian Pipeline Consortium oil conduit terminates, bringing up to 1.3 million barrels a day of oil from Kazakhstan — from where it is shipped on to world markets.
At least seven people were killed after Russian strikes on the eastern Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk, destroying a hotel and apartments.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said at least 31 people – including 19 policemen, five rescuers and one child – were wounded in the strikes, which targeted the Ukrainian portion of a region partially occupied by Russia.
President Zelenskyy said: “We have to stop the Russian terror. Everyone who fights for the freedom of Ukraine saves lives. Everyone in the world who helps Ukraine will defeat the terrorists together with us. “Russia will be held accountable for everything it has done in this terrible war.”
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “By resorting to supremely cynical tactics, Putin has made his war everybody’s business.”
The Government added a further 25 individuals and businesses to its list of sanctions against Russia and Belarus. It brings the total number of individuals named under the scheme to 1,627.
Mr Cleverly said the sanctions “will further diminish Russia’s arsenal and close the net on supply chains propping up Putin’s now struggling defence industry”, adding: “There is nowhere for those sustaining Russia’s military machine to hide.”