Ukraine destroyed three “subversive Russian boats” in the south of the war-torn country in less than a day, Kyiv’s military has claimed, as civilian ships are reported to be moving away from the area of the Black Sea where Ukraine is increasingly targeting Moscow’s assets.
“Over the past day, three more boats were destroyed,” Ukrainian southern forces spokesperson Nataliya Humenyuk told news outlet Channel 24, on Sunday. Newsweek cannot independently verify this, and has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.
This comes after Moscow-linked military blogger, Rybar, said on Friday that at least six civilian ships were moving from the Black Sea towards ports in the Mediterranean, adding that Russia’s ability to control the movement of these vessels was limited.
The Black Sea has increasingly become a hotspot in the 18-month-long war as Ukraine’s forces look to peel back Russian dug-in defenses in the south and east of the country. Moscow has used its vessels in the area to launch strikes on Ukraine and Kyiv has increasingly zoned in on Russia’s Black Sea fleet bases and infrastructure like the bridges connecting the mainland to the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Russian attacks on Ukraine’s ports have increased since Moscow’s refusal to renew a U.N.-brokered grain deal, which had secured safe passage for ships from Ukraine to the rest of the world.
On August 10, Ukraine said it was establishing a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to allow primarily civilian ships which had been stuck in Ukrainian ports to leave the region. On Wednesday, a Ukrainian official said the first vessel had left the port city of Odesa through the corridor.
In late July, Andriy Yermak, who heads up Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s presidential office, had said “Russian warships are threatening civilians in the Black Sea, violating all norms of international maritime law.”
On August 13, Moscow’s Defense Ministry said it had fired warning shots “with automatic small arms” and boarded a cargo vessel that was registered In Micronesia.
Following this incident, Bulgaria’s Defense Minister, Todor Tagarev, said it was impossible to “rule out” the possibility that Russian and NATO forces could clash in the Black Sea region.
“We are working to prevent it,” Tagarev told Bulgarian media on Friday.
In an update on Sunday, Ukraine’s navy said Russia had five ships on combat duty in the Black Sea, one of which carried up to four sea-launch Kalibr cruise missiles. Russia has often used these missiles to target Ukrainian cities and positions along the Black Sea.