Ukraine’s Operational Command South revealed on Monday that the Russian military attacked two civilian tugboats in the Black Sea, both of which were assisting in the transportation of a barge containing grain. The attacks come after the Kremlin reneged on the UN-brokered grain deal that came into effect in August, helping prevent food shortages in the Middle East and Africa.
According to the Ukrainian military, two people died as a result of the attacks, and an additional wounded person was rescued from one of the tugboats. The location of another crew member is reportedly unknown.
“The Russian forces continue their attacks on the port infrastructure on the Ochakiv front,” the Ukrainian military said in an online statement. “As a result of an attack on two port civilian tugboats that were involved in the transportation of grain barges, a fire broke out and control over the vessels was lost. Two crew members were killed, one more was rescued with injuries, the fate of another is unknown.”
Russia Blames Ukraine
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday that continuing to enforce the grain deal without the support of the Kremlin would be “dangerous” and blamed the collapse of the plan on Ukraine.
“In conditions where Russia talks about the impossibility of guaranteeing the safety of navigation in these areas, such a deal is hardly feasible,” Peskov said. “And it takes on a different character, much more risky, dangerous.”
By refusing to guarantee the safety of the grain ships, Russia effectively announced that its military considers the ships legitimate targets.
It means the future of grain ship departures from Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea is now uncertain, with millions of tons of grain still waiting to leave the country. 12 ships were expected to leave the ports on Monday and four were due to arrive back in the ports, according to the Joint Coordination Center that was established to oversee the agreement.
Why Russia Fired At Civilian Boats
Russia resumed the blockade on Ukrainian ports but may no longer have the naval might required to enforce it. Following the sinking of the Moskva flagship earlier this year, Russia deployed a new flagship to the region, the Makarov – a ship that some analysts say may have been seriously damaged in Ukrainian drone strikes that took place on Saturday.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.