Russia has claimed that its navy fired multiple warning shots at a merchant vessel in the Black Sea on Sunday. (EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV)


Russia fires warning shots at merchant vessel after grain deal collapse


Russia’s navy fired multiple warning shots at a merchant vessel in the Black Sea on August 13.

Kyiv has lashed out at Moscow over the incident, accusing it of breaking international law. “Today’s deliberate attack … is a clear violation of international law of the sea, an act of piracy and a crime against civilian vessels of a third country in the waters of other states,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote online.

Tensions in the sea have been rising since Russia unilaterally pulled out of the grain deal active in the region that helped guarantee the continued export of Ukrainian agricultural products to the developing world, preventing worldwide food shortages.

In a statement published by the Russian ministry of defence, a spokesman confirmed that the country’s patrol vessel Vasily Bykov fired warning shots at a Palau-flagged cargo ship.

“The captain of the dry-cargo ship did not respond to the demand to stop for inspection for the carriage of prohibited goods,” the spokesman said.

“To force the ship to stop, warning fire from automatic small arms was opened from a Russian warship.”

A Ka-29 transport helicopter was then deployed by Russian forces to intercept the merchant vessel, with the aircraft deploying troops to search the ship.

Despite initial tensions, the Russian inspection team are said to have completed their sweep of the vessel seemingly without incident and allowed it to continue its journey to the Ukrainian port of Izmail.

Online web resource VesselFinder shows the ship in question, Sukru Okan, as continuing its voyage. As of writing, it is on its way to a port in Romania.

The latest confrontation represents growing tension in the Black Sea since Moscow abandoned the Ukrainian grain deal.

Russia has made overtures that it is open to seeing the deal restored, with the state-owned TASS news agency reporting that the country appeared to be working closely with Turkey to reimplement the agreement.

“Work has intensified to eliminate the problems confronting the grain initiative’s implementation,” it reports an anonymous diplomatic source as saying.