The UK Government’s Foreign Office has declassified and released “intelligence” that it said suggests Russia may target civilian ships in the Black Sea as part of its war against Ukraine.
In a statement to the press, the government said it “assesses Russia is seeking to target civilian shipping travelling through Ukraine’s ‘humanitarian corridor’ in order to deter the export of Ukrainian grain”.
The use of sea mines has been documented in the Russia-Ukraine war and is seen as the most likely form of attack on civilian shipping.
The export of grain is key to the Ukrainian economy and Russia has attempted to control its exports via a blockade of Black Sea ports and the recent cancellation of its UN-brokered deal to allow ships to reach Turkey.
The Foreign Office explained: “By releasing our assessment of this intelligence, the UK seeks to expose Russia’s tactics to deter any such incident from occurring.”
While the UK and other NATO member states are not directly involved in the war, the Foreign Office made it clear that the UK’s intelligence services were monitoring Russian activity.
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“The UK has put in place intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to monitor Russian activity in the Black Sea. These capabilities will help us to attribute and call out any further Russian attacks on civilian shipping or infrastructure.”
Referencing the likelihood of a so-called “false flag” attack by Russian forces, claimed to be by a Ukrainian hand, UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly warned any such attack would face a “united” response.
Cleverly said: “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.”
Last week a large grain bulker managed to leave the southwestern Ukrainian port of Odesa and evade the Black Sea blockade.
Russia’s response was swift and included missile and drone attacks on key Ukrainian ports, including Odesa.