Russian navy rehearses firing rockets at surface objects in Black Sea after warning to Ukraine

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Russia's Defense Ministry said on Friday that its Black Sea Fleet had practiced firing rockets at surface targets in a live fire exercise, two days after it warned that ships heading to Ukraine's Black Sea ports could be considered military targets.

Russia issued its warning earlier this week after it quit the Black Sea grain deal on Monday, revoking security guarantees for ships carrying Ukrainian grain.

Kyiv subsequently said it wanted to set up a temporary shipping route to try and continue its grain exports, prompting Russia to warn that any ships traveling to Ukraine's Black Sea ports would be seen as possibly carrying military cargoes.

Russian Defense Ministry statements 

"In accordance with the combat training plan of the Black Sea Fleet forces, the crew of the Ivanovets missile boat carried out live firing of anti-ship cruise missiles at a target vessel..." the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

"Telemetry data and video monitoring from unmanned aerial vehicles confirmed the success of the exercise, and the target vessel was destroyed as a result of the rocket strike," it added.

A still image from a video, released by Russia's Defence Ministry, shows what it said to be the guided missile ship Ivanovets firing a rocket during drills in the Black Sea, in this image taken from video released July 21, 2023 (credit: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

It said its fleet had also rehearsed closing off areas temporarily ruled off limits to shipping and had practiced "apprehending an offending vessel."

Kremlin: Ukraine poses danger to civilian shipping in Black Sea

The Kremlin said on Friday that what it called Ukraine's "unpredictable" actions posed a danger to civilian shipping in the Black Sea, and accused Kyiv of carrying out "terrorist attacks" in the area.

Russia said this week that all ships heading to Ukraine's Black Sea ports could be considered military targets, and their flag countries parties to the conflict on the Ukrainian side, after it revoked their security guarantees by quitting the Black Sea grain deal.

Its navy has since practiced firing rockets at "floating targets" and apprehending ships, although Moscow's ambassador to Washington on Thursday denied any plan to attack civilian vessels.

"Unpredictable actions and, moreover, the involvement of the Kyiv regime in terrorist acts certainly potentially create a threat in this area," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Asked whether ships carrying Russian oil and other goods from Russia's Black Sea ports were at risk, and whether Russia would alter the routes of its ships in the Black Sea, Peskov told reporters that government departments would take a decision:

"The situation is being analyzed, and our responsible agencies will develop appropriate recommendations to minimize the danger."

Moscow on Monday pulled out of the year-old Black Sea grain deal, aimed at facilitating the safe navigation of ships exporting grain from Ukrainian ports during the conflict, after complaining that promises to assist its own food and fertilizer exports enshrined in a parallel memorandum had been ignored.

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