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The Ukrainian minehunters Cherkasy and Chernihiv docked in Portsmouth. Photo courtesy UK Royal Navy

The Ukrainian minehunters Cherkasy and Chernihiv. Photo courtesy UK Royal Navy

Ukrainian Minehunters, Unable to Return Home, Face Indefinite Stay in the UK

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3131
April 12, 2024

The UK has become the indefinite base for two Ukrainian Navy ships due to Turkey’s blocking of access to the Black Sea amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. The Sandown-class minehunters, Cherkasy and Chernihiv, previously known as HMS Shoreham and HMS Grimsby, arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base this week.

The ships were donated by Britain to the Ukraine last December. Their stay in Portsmouth is expected to last as long as the war in Ukraine continues due to Turkey’s decision to prevent the ships from transiting its waters on the basis of the Montreux Convention, which restricts passage of military vessels through the Bosporus Strait during war times.

While stationed in Portsmouth, the ships will engage in exercises with the Royal Navy and the US Navy in UK waters, helping Ukrainian Navy to adapt to NATO operations. Despite their restricted movement, these ships play a crucial role in Ukraine’s future defence strategy. The UK’s support aims to enhance the Ukrainian Navy’s capabilities in protecting commercial shipping and disabling sea mines.

In the midst of the conflict, Ukraine has managed to sink or disable approximately a third of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. The long-term plan is for Cherkasy and Chernihiv to operate in the Black Sea once the war ends, clearing mines from essential sea lanes.

“There are huge amounts of Russian mines across 800 square kilometres of the Black Sea and Ukraine’s economy is heavily based on exporting grain through the same sea,” said Commodore Paul Pitcher, the Royal Navy’s Commander Surface Flotilla. “Key to the post-conflict stability of Ukraine and economic recovery is the safe passage of traffic. These vessels will be crucial in providing safe sea lanes for the Ukrainian economy.”

Commodore John Voyce, Portsmouth Naval Base Commander, Commodore John Voyce, said the ships will be based in Portsmouth for as long as they need. “The training of their people is important, and they can get out on the sea and work on maritime skills,” he said.

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