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Russia trades accusations with Ukraine on drifting Black Sea mines -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: A tanker carrying oil passes the Bosphorus and Black Sea crossing Istanbul, July 20, 2012. REUTERS/OsmanOrsal

LONDON (Reuters – Russia has accused Ukraine of laying hundreds upon its coast. The Russians claimed they are drifting in the Black Sea, posing dangers to merchant shipping. These accusations come a day following Kyiv’s claim that Moscow planted the mines.

Black Sea shipping routes are important for oil, grains and products. There are several countries that share its waters: Turkey, Bulgaria and Georgia as well Ukraine and Russia.

The foreign ministry of Ukraine stated Wednesday that Russia had planted naval mines at the Black Sea to “uncontrolled drifting ammo”, making them “a de facto weapon for indiscriminate actions”.

Russia’s defense ministry announced Thursday that the Ukrainian remnants of its mine-sweeping force had placed approximately 420 sea anchormines between February 24 and March 4. 370 were in the Black Sea, 50 in the Sea of Azov.

The defense ministry stated that cables with bottom anchors were damaged by storms at the Black Sea, as well as unsatisfactory technical conditions. This caused damage to about 10 Ukrainian mines.

“Since then under the influence wind and surface curents, Ukrainian mins have floated freely in the west part of the Black Sea in an a southern direction… Nobody can determine where the last Ukrainian mines drift today.

Russia stated that Ukraine was “creating a direct mine menace to the transport and cargo ships from all Black Sea countries”. Officials from Ukraine did not respond immediately to our request for comment.

Russia’s top intelligence agency claimed earlier this month that Ukraine had laid mines to defend ports. It also said hundreds of explosives had detonated from cables and drifted off. Kyiv rejected this account as disinformation.

Recent days have seen the involvement of military diving teams from Romania and Turkey in dismantling stray mines within their waters.

Turkey’s defense ministry stated that it has not identified the source or number of the drifting mines yet and was in touch with its counterparts from Russia and Ukraine.

Tayfun Ozberk, a retired senior officer of Turkey’s Navy, said that it was difficult for Reuters to obtain reliable information regarding the mines, which were used both by Russia and Ukraine.

Ozberk explained that Ukraine is unlikely to have laid any mines recently, given that the country has been subject to a blockade since about two months.

Ukraine had to lay between 2000 and 2,500 mines there in order for there be 420 floundering mines. It is also impossible to break every single mine you have laid. The possibility that Ukraine has just mined this region doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

Ozberk stated that it is unlikely for old mines to be freed from thick chains.

Yoruk Isik (an Istanbul-based geopolitical analysis and chief of the Bosphorus Observer consultant) said that if there was a greater threat from mines, an international response could be required, which would include help from French, Spanish and Greek vessels.

London’s maritime insurance market has increased the number of areas it considers to be high risk, and thus insurance rates have rocketed.

According to shipping officials, five merchant vessels were struck by projectiles off Ukraine’s coast. One of the vessels was lost and two others drowned.

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