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Statement of the MFA of Ukraine on the declaration of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation regarding the potential use of force against merchant vessels in the Black Sea
20 July 2023 15:00

On July 19, 2023, the Ministry of Defense of Russia declared that the Russian Federation would attack all merchant vessels in Black Sea waters headed to Ukrainian ports.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine strongly condemns Russia’s threats to use force against civilian vessels, regardless of their flag. Russian statements are an attack on freedom of navigation throughout the world.

Russia’s intentions to consider foreign vessels as military targets grossly violate its obligations under international law to all states that conduct peaceful navigation in the Black Sea.

According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, merchant vessels of states not involved in an armed conflict have the right to free and peaceful navigation, which is not considered an act of aggression. Norms of international humanitarian law prohibit any attacks against vessels of neutral states if they do not engage in belligerent acts or do not support military efforts.

There is no basis to believe that merchant vessels of foreign nations are supporting military efforts simply by exporting grain to other countries that need it in order to avert the threat of hunger.

Russia's actions cannot be justified by any norms of international law, including the belligerent’s right to blockade. Russia's declaration has no legitimate direct military objective. Instead, it is intended to intimidate neutral states. Russia's declaration covers the entire Black Sea, not just an area immediately around Ukrainian ports, and, moreover, does not make exceptions for medical and other humanitarian considerations, as is required by the laws of naval warfare.

Russia's withdrawal from the "Grain Agreement" and its constant cynical attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure, navigation means, and grain terminals are nothing else but Russia's attempts to eliminate a market competitor, deliberately raise world food prices, and make profits at the expense of the suffering of millions of people around the world.

We call on our partners to fully support Ukraine's initiative to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor in the Black Sea. The humanitarian corridor will restore vital food supply routes to the regions that need them the most.

We call on the international community to condemn Russia's actions and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of navigation in the Black Sea as a guarantee of food security around the world.

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