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A still image shows what it said to be the guided missile ship Ivanovets during drills in the Black Sea,

A still image from a video, released by Russia's Defence Ministry, shows what it said to be the guided missile ship Ivanovets during drills in the Black Sea, in this image taken from video released July 21, 2023. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT. WATERMARK FROM SOURCE. ?

Russian Navy Holds Live Fire Exercise in Black Sea as Threats to Shipping Escalate

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July 21, 2023

By Bloomberg News (Bloomberg) —

Russia’s navy said it had conducted a live fire exercise in the Black Sea after trading threats with Ukraine in which both sides warned they could target any ships heading to the other’s ports.

The exercise at a training range in the sea’s northwest followed this week’s collapse of the deal that allowed Ukraine to export some grain via safe corridors. Since then, the verbal threats between Moscow and Kyiv have escalated, sharpening the war’s risk to global commodities markets and driving wheat prices toward a weekly gain of more than 10% over supply concerns. 

In the exercise, a ship fired cruise missiles at a target vessel and destroyed it, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on its Telegram channel Friday. 

The Russian navy and air force also “practiced isolating an area temporarily closed to navigation and carried out a set of measures to apprehend an offending vessel,” it said. It wasn’t clear exactly when the training had taken place.

Russia has attacked Ukrainian grain storage facilities and warned that all vessels heading to Ukrainian ports would be considered potential carriers of military supplies since it quit the deal. On Thursday, Ukraine said any ships heading to Russian ports may be military targets in a tit-for-tat response.

The growing tensions over vital Black Sea trade step up the risk of turmoil on global markets for everything from oil and food staples to fertilizers. Russia’s attack on its neighbor has already severely disrupted exports from Ukraine, a major producer of grains and vegetable oils.

Ukraine has previously attacked Russian ships in the Black Sea, sinking the flagship Moskva cruiser with a Neptune anti-ship missile shortly after Russia’s invasion in February 2022. 

It also sank a landing ship and damaged another in the port of Berdyansk in March 2022, and Ukrainian rockets have reached Russia’s main supply line to Crimea, the Kerch Strait bridge.

It’s not immediately clear whether this week’s escalating verbal threats on ships will actually tip into action, though.

Lacking a deployable navy, Kyiv has been using surface water drones in attacks on Russian naval vessels, most of which have been thwarted by cannon fire. 

And while Russia’s defense capabilities in the northern Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are considerable, in its original warning, Moscow did not specify exactly what it would do to ships that try to enter Ukrainian ports.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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