The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) posted a video on Tuesday showing Russian Navy personnel boarding a Palau-flagged cargo vessel traveling to Izmail, Ukraine in the Black Sea. This comes amid Ukraine’s announcement of a humanitarian corridor to allow ships stuck in Ukrainian ports to leave the Black Sea. Russia has established a de facto blockade on the sea since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the patrol ship Vasily Bykov encountered the cargo ship Sukru Okan in the Black Sea on Sunday. When the Sukru Okan did not comply with Vasily Bykov’s request for an inspection, the patrol ship fired warning shots. The Defense Ministry says they intended to inspect the ship for “prohibited goods.”
The video shows armed Russian servicemen boarding the Sukru Okan via helicopter, ordering the crew to stop the ship and asking the crew why they did not stop when requested. One of the Sukuru Okan’s crew members responded that the ship’s failure to stop resulted from a misunderstanding. The Russian sailors then carried out their inspection and allowed the Sukru Okan to continue to Izmail.
According to the international custom of visit and search, a warship from a country engaged in a conflict may search a neutral vessel for contraband or evidence of non-neutrality. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that it followed international law. Still, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said the boarding was “a clear violation of international law of the sea, an act of piracy and a crime against civilian vessels of a third country in the waters of other states.”
Last week, Ukraine announced a humanitarian corridor for civilian ships unable to leave Ukrainian ports since 2022. The first ship to use the corridor left Odessa on Wednesday amid fears that Russia may interfere with departing vessels.
Ukraine’s announcement came after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative last month. The initiative was an international agreement allowing the export of grain from specific Ukranian ports following global food supply concerns caused by Russia’s invasion.