Ukraine Declares War on Russian Shipping in the Black Sea

An advisor to Zelensky told POLITICO that 'everything the Russians are moving' on the Black Sea are 'valid military targets'

A Ukrainian official told POLITICO on Tuesday that all Russian ports and ships, including commercial vessels, are considered legitimate military targets as the war in Ukraine is escalating in the Black Sea.

“Everything the Russians are moving back and forth on the Black Sea are our valid military targets,” said Oleg Ustenko, an economic advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The comments came after Ukraine attacked a Russian commercial port and a Russian tanker. According to Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) sources speaking to the media, the tanker, the Sig, was hit by a sea drone packed with 992 pounds of TNT. The attack blasted a hole in the vessel’s engine room.

Ustenko said the attacks were retaliation for Russia’s bombardment of Ukraine’s ports after Moscow said it would not renew the Black Sea grain deal. “This story started with Russia blocking the grain corridor, threatening to attack our vessels, destroying our ports,” he said. “Our maritime infrastructure is under constant attack.”

Russia withdrew from the grain deal because it wasn’t satisfied with UN and Western efforts to make it easier to ship Russian agricultural goods, which was another aspect of the agreement. One of Russia’s main demands to renew the grain deal is for its agricultural bank to be reconnected to the SWIFT payment system. Moscow has also accused Ukraine of launching attacks from the corridors that were created to ship grain out of Ukrainian ports.

Over the weekend, Ukraine declared that six Russian Black Sea ports were considered “war risk” areas, signaling that more attacks are imminent. The war in the Black Sea risks a major escalation as several NATO countries have Black Sea coasts, and the US regularly conducts air patrols over the waters. Some of Russia’s strikes on Ukraine targeted ports on the Danube River across from NATO member Romania.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.