Britain Says Russia Could Be Preparing Black Sea Blockade


Britain’s defense ministry said Wednesday that Russia has altered its naval activity in the Black Sea, adding that there is a possibility Russian forces were preparing “to enforce a blockade of Ukraine.”

Last week, Russia withdrew from a nearly year-old agreement brokered by the United Nations and Turkey that allowed for the safe passage of grain shipments from Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Before the deal, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had halted the grain exports, worsening a global food crisis.

The British defense ministry said in its daily update that the Russian corvette Sergey Kotov had deployed to the Black Sea to patrol a shipping lane between the Bosporus Strait and Ukraine’s southern port of Odesa.

“There is a realistic possibility that it will form part of a task group to intercept commercial vessels Russia believes are heading to Ukraine,” the British ministry said.

US aid

The United States will send Ukraine an additional $400 million in military aid, including air defense missiles, small drones and armored vehicles, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The weapons are being provided through the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows for the speedy delivery of defense articles and services from U.S. stocks, sometimes arriving within days of approval. The materiel will come from U.S. excess inventory.

The aid announcement comes at a time when Ukrainian troops are involved in a slow-moving counteroffensive against invading Russian forces.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the assistance is aimed at “strengthening Ukraine’s brave forces on the battlefield” and “helping them retake Ukraine’s sovereign territory.”

“The people of Ukraine continue to bravely defend their country against Russia’s aggression while Russia continues its relentless and vicious attacks that are killing Ukrainian civilians and destroying civil infrastructure,” Blinken said in a statement.

The new aid package includes an array of ammunition, ranging from missiles for Patriot air defense systems and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASMS), Stinger anti-aircraft systems, more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Stryker armored personnel carriers and a variety of other missiles and rockets.

It also will include for the first time U.S.-furnished Black Hornet surveillance drones — tiny nano drones used largely for intelligence-gathering. Ukraine has previously received these drones from other Western allies.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. has provided more than $43 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

Also Tuesday, Russian lawmakers approved a bill extending the upper age limit for the compulsory military draft from 27 to 30, a move that appears aimed at expanding the pool of recruits for the fighting in Ukraine.

The measure was quickly approved by the lower house on Tuesday. It will need to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.__VOA News