UK transfers two minehunter ships to Ukraine to counter Russian blockade and open up Black Sea trade routes

11 December 2023, 06:17 | Updated: 11 December 2023, 08:30

A Sandown-class minehunter
A Sandown-class minehunter. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The UK has transferred two minehunter ships to Ukraine to help counteract a Russian blockade in the Black Sea.

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The two Sandown Class mine countermeasures vessels will help Ukrainian ships find explosives left by the Russians in the sea, a move that would allow Kyiv to increase exports in the Black Sea trade route.

British intelligence sources warned in October that Russia could use sea mines against civilian ships.

The British Ministry of Defence said the UK would lead a new maritime capability coalition alongside Norway to increase support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

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The coalition will deliver long-term support, including training, equipment and infrastructure to boost security in the Black Sea, the ministry said.

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Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: "These minehunters will deliver vital capability to Ukraine, which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes, which have been severely limited since Putin launched his illegal full-scale invasion.

"This capability boost marks the beginning of a new dedicated effort by the UK, Norway and our allies to strengthen Ukraine’s maritime capabilities over the long term, enhancing their ability to operate in defending their sovereign waters and bolstering security in the Black Sea.

"As an island nation with a proud maritime history, the UK and Royal Navy are particularly well-placed to support this endeavour, which will form part of a series of new coalitions formed between allies to ensure an enduring military commitment in support of Ukraine.”

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Defence
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Defence. Picture: Alamy

Ukraine and Russia had previously agreed to a deal that allowed Kyiv to export food products through the Black Sea, but Russia pulled out in July.

Vladimir Putin's government said afterwards that ships near Ukrainian ports would be considered potential supporters of Kyiv's war efforts.

Ukraine set up a "humanitarian corridor" across the sea to its ports in response. Several NATO members, including Turkey, also border the Black Sea.

Olena Zelenska
Olena Zelenska. Picture: Getty

It comes amid fears that western support for Ukraine may be fading, nearly two years after Russia's invasion and with the war in Gaza now receiving more media attention.

Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said: "We really need the help. In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die.

"And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die."

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