Stray naval mine found in Black Sea
Turkey has detected yet another stray naval mine floating in its waters in the Black Sea, marking the third time such a discovery has been made since the start of the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The country’s Ministry of National Defense announced the discovery on Wednesday, stating that elite Underwater Defense (SAS) diving teams had been dispatched to the area where the latest mine was found by a Liberian-flagged cargo ship and were already working on defusing it, and adding that a security perimeter had been established around the area, just off the coast of the town of Kefken in Izmir.
Previously, two other apparent floating mines were reported to have been found and destroyed by Turkey – one near the Bosphorus strait and one near Turkey’s border with Bulgaria. On March 28 the Romanian military also found and destroyed one near its Black Sea shore.
The Black Sea is a key shipping route for commodities such as grain, oil and oil products, and its waters are shared by Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia and Turkey, as well as Ukraine and Russia, which have been at war since late February.
Both Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of laying out mines in the Black Sea, with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky stating in an address to the Norwegian parliament last Wednesday that the Russian military is “creating the worst threat to international security since World War II” through its “insidious” operations in the Black sea. He has accused Russia of laying out mines in the Black Sea as “uncontrolled drifting ammunition” and a “de facto weapon of indiscriminate action.”
Moscow has denied the accusations, with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) stating that, from February 24 to March 4, the Ukrainian navy had placed about 420 “obsolete” sea anchor mines outside several of its ports. The FSB issued a warning on March 19 that some of these mines had detached from their cables and could potentially drift into the Bosphorus and Mediterranean Sea.
Moscow attacked Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk ceasefire agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia is now demanding that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO, a US-led military bloc. Kiev says the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it had been planning to retake the two secessionist regions by force.