Cargo ship sinks after explosion near Ukraine amid fears 'it struck sea mine'

3 March 2022, 13:15 | Updated: 3 March 2022, 13:54

The blast happened off the port city of Odessa in Ukraine
The blast happened off the port city of Odessa in Ukraine. Picture: Alamy/Google

By Will Taylor

A cargo ship has sunk after an explosion near the Ukrainian port city Odessa.

The blast, which was suggested to have been a sea mine, caused the Estonian-owned Helt to sink on Thursday amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Two of the crew were in a life raft but four others are unaccounted for, according to Igor Ilves, the managing director of Vista Shipping Agency.

Reuters said Mr Ilves believed the ship could have hit a mine.

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Estonia is a Nato member, and the incident comes at a time when the alliance is avoiding a direct confrontation with Russia – something that could spark a massive new war in Europe.

Member states have rejected the notion that a no-fly zone could be imposed to stop the Russian Air Force.

The blast also follows an incident with a Bangladeshi cargo ship, which was hit by either a missile or a bomb in the port city Olvia.

It left one engineer who was part of the crew dead, though the remaining 28 were unharmed, according to Reuters.

"We express deep condolences to the near and dear ones of the deceased. The Russian side bends every effort to ensure safe departure of the Bangladeshi ship from the port," the Russian embassy to Bangladesh said.

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On land, Russia is stepping up its campaign against cities, continuing to encircle the capital Kyiv while fighting rages at Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city in the east of the country.

Moscow says it has captured Kherson, a key city in the south, and Russian advances there have sparked fear that Ukraine will get cut off from the sea.

Meanwhile, it is thought more than a million people have fled the country to escape the violence. Ukraine estimated on Wednesday that 2,000 civilians have died in the fighting.