The UK’s Ministry of Defence has said that a Russian missile that struck the Liberian-flagged Kmax Ruler bulk cargo ship at the Pivdennyi port in Odesa, Ukraine and killed a harbour pilot, was likely not a targeted attack. 

An intelligence update posted on X/Twitter said that the air-launched AS-17 KRYPTON missile that hit the ship on Wednesday 8 November was likely meant to target Ukrainian military radars but instead locked on to the Kmax Ruler’s radar when it did not detect any active military options. 

Commenting on the possibility of an accidental hit, the ministry said: “If so, this would demonstrate poor weapons employment tactics on behalf of the Russian pilot.” 

The attack, which also injured three Filipino crew members and a port worker, had previously been condemned by several international parties as an apparent further attack on Ukraine’s export facilities that could endanger global supply chains, continuing the country’s aggression against operations in Odesa since it left a grain agreement in July

Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov also highlighted the fact that the civilian vessel was meant to be carrying iron ore to China, a strategic ally for Russia and that the attack had affected citizens of the Philippines. 

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Additionally, speaking before the UK released its intelligence, the EU’s external affairs spokesperson Peter Stando posted: “This attack on a foreign civilian vessel is yet another escalation by Russia and proof of Russia terrorising civilian naval traffic. 

“By targeting Ukraine ports and export facilities, Russia deliberately exacerbates global food security crisis.” 

The missile launch comes only a month after the UK warned that Russia may begin to attack civilian ships in the Black Sea as part of its war against Ukraine, declassifying intelligence that suggested the action may be taken by the country and telling the press that it wanted to deter Russia from causing an incident against civilians.