Russia’s efforts to strangle Ukrainian grain exports are seeing it come ever closer to bringing a NATO member into the conflict.
Since quitting a United Nations-brokered grain shipping pact last month, Russian forces have targeted Ukrainian ports and grain export facilities including sending drones to attack tports on the Danube , just a couple of hundred of metres away from the shoreline of Romania, a NATO member.
Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis called Russia’s repeated attacks on Ukraine’s Danube infrastructure near Romania “unacceptable” earlier this month.
“Russia’s continued attacks against the Ukrainian civilian infrastructure on the Danube, in the proximity of Romania, are unacceptable. These are war crimes and they further affect capacity to transfer their food products towards those in need in the world,” Iohannis said on social media.
On Sunday, Russian forces fired warning shots in international waters and boarded a Palau-flagged dry bulk carrier owned by Turkish interests, another NATO member.
With Ukraine reporting a bumper harvest this year despite the war, it is desperate to sell its produce but Russia has effectively made shipping from Ukrainian sea ports impossible so it has had to turn increasingly to Romania’s port of Constanta (pictured) to the south for help. Here, too, the Russians appear to be at work disrupting shipments.
Romania’s navy said it deployed a ship and a helicopter yesterday to scout for stray mines on the country’s Black Sea coast, after a pier in the seaside resort of Costinesti near Constanta was lightly damaged in an explosion.
Mines have been found around the Black Sea in the 18 months since war began between Ukraine and Russia.
Yesterday’s timing however was suspicious as it came at a time where the Romanian government was laying out plans to double the monthly transit capacity of Ukrainian grain at Constanta to 4m tonnes in the coming months.