Russia’s Ministry of Defence says its naval forces have destroyed three unmanned Ukrainian boats in the northern part of the Black Sea off the Crimean Peninsula, the latest in a series of attacks around the contested waterway that is crucial to Russia’s offensive against Kyiv.
“Anti-sabotage missiles and bombs hit the area where the unmanned boats were detected,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app on Tuesday.
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It added that an anti-mining and an “anti-sabotage” operation was being conducted off the port of Sevastopol in the Black Sea, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based. Moscow has used that fleet, comprised of some 30 warships, to try to blockade Ukraine’s coastline and fire missiles at Ukrainian cities.
It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties from the latest Black Sea attack — and Kyiv issued no immediate comment.
Fight over the Black Sea
Ukraine has in recent months stepped up attacks on Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, helping it win back limited control of the Black Sea and, at times, push Russian warships further east.
In September, Kyiv claimed it had hit two naval vessels and struck Sevastopol’s port infrastructure, inflicting what appeared to be the most severe damage to that area in the war.
“Ukraine’s actions have wrestled control of Ukraine’s western territorial waters back from Russia and prevented the Black Sea Fleet from threatening Odesa with amphibious assault or providing tactical fires and logistical support to Russian forces in Kherson,” retired US Army Major-General Gordon Skip Davis Jr told Al Jazeera in early October.
New shipping corridor
Ukraine’s engagement in the Black Sea has helped it establish a new “humanitarian corridor” in the waterway to get out its exports after Moscow deserted a deal to guarantee Kyiv’s shipments in July.
Since the opening of the corridor, which cuts through the waters of NATO members Bulgaria and Romania to deter Russia, Ukraine has exported some 700,000 tonnes of grain, helping it preserve a key component of its economy.
“We see a trend towards an increase in the number of ships leaving our ports. We hope it will continue,” senior Ukrainian agricultural official Mykola Solsky said on Monday.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies