KYIV, Feb 14 (Reuters) – Shipping and coastal communities around Ukraine’s major seaport hub of Odesa received a warning from military officials on Tuesday over the high risk of naval mines drifting along the coast and washing ashore.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of using mines off the Ukrainian coast, which prevents safe navigation in the region. The Soviet-made mines were anchored, but in a storm some of them could come loose and be carried by the current.
“There is a high probability of naval mines breaking off their anchors and washing up on the shore, as well as drifting along the coast,” Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman of Odesa military administration, wrote on Telegram messaging app.
“Since March last year, Russia has continued to use anti-ship mines on anchors as an unguided weapon against Ukraine,” he said in a separate video.
Russia blockaded Odesa’s ports – the main loading points for Ukrainian grain exports, after its forces invaded Ukraine in late February 2022. Russia calls the invasion a “special military operation.”
The blockade was lifted on three Ukrainian Black Sea ports at the end of July under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. And between then and the end of January, Ukraine exported more than 17 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds through the safe passage corridor, Ukrainian grain traders union UGA said last week.
The union noted that in January 2023, exports of agricultural products “decreased significantly due to deliberate delays in ship inspections by Russia.” Russia has denied the accusations.
Ukraine grain exports in the 2022/23 season, which runs through to June, are down 28.7% to 29.2 million tonnes as of Feb 13, due to a smaller harvest and logistical difficulties caused by the Russian invasion, agriculture ministry data showed on Monday.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.
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