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Published: 11:40, August 15, 2023 | Updated: 11:45, August 15, 2023
Russian warship fires warning shots in Black Sea
By Ren Qi in Moscow
Published:11:40, August 15, 2023 Updated:11:45, August 15, 2023 By Ren Qi in Moscow

A Russian warship on Sunday fired warning shots at a cargo ship in the southwestern Black Sea as it made its way northward, making it the first time Russia has fired on a merchant ship beyond Ukraine since exiting a landmark UN-brokered grain deal last month.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its Vasily Bykov patrol ship had fired automatic weapons on the Palau-flagged Sukru Okan vessel, after the ship's captain failed to respond to a request to halt for an inspection.

The vessel was making its way toward the Ukrainian port of Izmail. Refinitiv shipping data showed the ship is currently near the coast of Bulgaria and heading toward the Romanian port of Sulina.

A Ka-29 helicopter with a group of Russian servicemen took off from Vasily Bykov to inspect the dry cargo ship. Following radio talks, the vessel came to a halt and the inspection team landed on the dry cargo ship, the ministry said.

"After the inspection group completed its work aboard the Sukru Okan, the vessel continued sailing toward the port of Izmail. The Black Sea Fleet's ships continue patrols in the designated areas," the Russian Defense Ministry said.

A Turkish Defense Ministry official said he had heard an incident had taken place involving a ship heading for Romania, and that Ankara was looking into it.

The incident came as Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal in July that allowed Ukraine to export agricultural produce via the Black Sea.

'Best possible response'

Since Russia pulled out of the deal, Moscow said it will treat any ships approaching Ukrainian ports as potential military vessels, and their flag countries as combatants on the Ukrainian side, while Kyiv responded with a similar threat to ships approaching Russian or Russian-held Ukrainian ports.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that "Ukraine will draw all the necessary conclusions and choose the best possible response".

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world's top agricultural producers and major contributors in the wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed and sunflower oil markets. Russia is also dominant in the fertilizer market.

Meanwhile, Russia is in the process of equipping its new nuclear submarines with hypersonic Zircon missiles, Alexei Rakhmanov, CEO of Russia's largest shipbuilder United Shipbuilding Corporation, said.

Multipurpose nuclear submarines of the Yasen-M project will be equipped with the Zircon missile system on a regular basis, Rakhmanov said.

On the battlefield, two waves of drone and missile attacks overnight wounded at least three people in the port city of Odesa.

Odesa Governor Oleh Kiper said several fires broke out from falling rocket fragments, and building windows were blown out by the blast wave.

Ukraine's armed forces command in the south said its air defense forces destroyed all 15 drones and eight Kalibr-type sea-based missiles that Russia launched at the port.


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