While Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry accused Russia of “grossly violating” its international obligations by threatening civilian ships traveling to Ukrainian ports, the Ukrainian military on Thursday issued a warning to Russian ships in the Black Sea — saying they could face the same fate as the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, which Ukraine sank in the Black Sea in April 2022.
“The Kremlin has turned the Black Sea into a danger zone, primarily for Russian vessels and vessels sailing in the Black Sea towards Russian seaports and Ukrainian seaports located on the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“Responsibility for all risks lies entirely with the Russian leadership. The fate of the Moskva warship proves that the Ukrainian Defense Forces have the necessary means to repel Russian aggression at sea,” it added.
After Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that all ships sailing in the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports would be considered potential carriers of military cargo.
“The intention to treat foreign vessels as military targets grossly violates Russia's obligations under international law not only to Ukraine, but to all states engaged in peaceful navigation in the Black Sea,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday. “There is no reason to believe that merchant ships are supporting acts of war simply by exporting grain to foreign countries that need it to prevent famine.”
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Thursday that Russia had created a Black Sea danger zone “by openly threatening civilian vessels transporting food from Ukrainian ports, launching missile attacks and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure in peaceful cities, (and) deliberately creating a military threat on trade routes.”
Echoing the language of Russia, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said starting Friday, "all vessels sailing in the Black Sea in the direction of the seaports of the Russian Federation and Ukrainian seaports located on the territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia may be considered by Ukraine as carrying military cargo with all the relevant risks."
CNN's Katharina Krebs contributed reporting to this post.