Russia plans to target civilian ships on the Black Sea, blame Ukraine: US officials

Russia is considering attacking civilian ships on the Black Sea and then putting the blame on Ukrainian forces, a senior White House official said Wednesday.

“The Russian military may expand their targeting of Ukrainian grain facilities to include attacks against civilian shipping,” National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge told AFP.

He said the allegation was based on newly declassified intelligence.

It came in the wake of a missile and drone attack by Russia against the port city of Odesa, as well as the Kremlin’s decision to pull out of an international deal allowing safe passage of massive Ukrainian grain exports across the Black Sea to world markets.

Moscow said its missiles targeted military objectives in Odesa but Hodge backed Ukrainian accusations that the attack destroyed “agricultural infrastructure and 60,000 tons of grain” lying ready for export.

According to the White House official, those kinds of attacks could now expand to civilian ships. And Russia is mounting an operation to make such attacks look like they were carried out by Ukraine, he said.

Hodge cited Russia’s release of a video showing its forces detecting and destroying an “alleged Ukrainian sea mine” on Wednesday.

At the same time, “our information indicates that Russia laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports. We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks.”

The Russian defense ministry said all vessels sailing to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea from now on will be regarded as potential carriers of military cargo and its flag states “will be considered to be involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime.”

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