Russia and Ukraine warn each other traveling ships part of the war

Russia’s Defence Ministry said all ships traveling to Ukraine are considered to be potentially transporting military cargo.

In response to threats from Moscow, Kyiv has warned that all ships calling at Russian-controlled ports in the Black Sea “may be considered by Ukraine as carrying military cargo with all the relevant risks”.

The warning, issued in a statement on Thursday by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, said this takes effect at midnight on Friday (21:00 GMT Thursday).

In its message, the Ukraine ministry also recalled the fate of the Russian cruiser Moskva, which was sunk by missiles more than a year ago. The Ukrainian navy has already used naval drones several times against the Russian Black Sea fleet and presumably also against the bridge to the Crimea peninsula.

Earlier, Russia had also threatened ships calling at Ukrainian ports, withdrawing their previous security guarantees.

Russia said ships travelling to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports will be considered potential military targets, as Kyiv said it would set up a temporary shipping route to continue grain exports following Moscow’s withdrawal from a deal that permitted food shipments from Ukraine’s ports.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that it would deem all ships travelling to Ukraine to be potentially carrying military cargo on behalf of Kyiv and “the flag countries of such ships will be considered parties to the Ukrainian conflict”.

In a statement on the Telegram messaging app, the defence ministry said it would implement its new stance towards ships in the Black Sea starting at midnight Moscow time (21:00 GMT Wednesday).

The defence ministry did not say what actions it might take towards ships travelling to Ukraine.

Russia also declared southeastern and northwestern parts of the Black Sea’s international waters to be temporarily unsafe for navigation, the ministry said, without giving details about the parts of the sea which would be affected.

Ukraine said on Wednesday it was establishing a temporary shipping route via Romania, one of the neighbouring Black Sea countries.

“Its goal is to facilitate the unblocking of international shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea,” Vasyl Shkurakov, Ukraine’s acting minister for communities, territories and infrastructure development, said in a letter to the United Nations shipping agency, the International Maritime Organization.

Reporting for Al Jazeera from Moscow, Yulia Shapovalova said that Russia’s defence ministry issued a statement addressing all international ships travelling towards Ukrainian ports and stating that “at midnight, July the 20th, all ships sailing in the Black Sea and approaching Ukrainian ports will be considered carriers of military cargo involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the Kyiv side.”

The announcement from Moscow on Wednesday came as a senior White House official said that Russia was considering attacking civilian ships on the Black Sea and then putting the blame on Ukrainian forces.

“Our information indicates that Russia laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports,” White House National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said in a statement, the Associated Press news agency reported.

“We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks,” Hodge said.

Russia was using food as a “weapon of war”, US state department spokesman Matthew Miller also said on Wednesday, noting that Moscow had made threats against ships in international waters on two consecutive days and attacked the Ukrainian port city of Odesa for two nights in a row.

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