Foreign correspondent James Kilner explains the story of a naval drone attack on an oil tanker off the Crimea:
This happened shortly before midnight on Friday.
Ukraine is trying to undermine the Kremlin’s semblance of control, trying to bring the war to ordinary Russians, and is linked to its increasing drone attacks on Moscow itself, and on oil facilities and other industrial enterprises in Russia, it’s been going on. for a while with drones.
Now this was a diversion because this was the first attack on an alleged civilian ship in the Black Sea since the war began. Some grainy black and white footage showed the naval drone searching for its target, finding its target, and then crashing into it.
Later pictures showed the cockpit area; the ceilings had collapsed, the desk was scattered, papers everywhere and there was water in one of the engine rooms. A Russian news agency said that Russia deployed two tugboats to tow this tanker to the port because it had run out of power. Now the tanker itself is a really important target as it is flying the Russian flag.
We know that it had previously been sanctioned by the US in 2019 because it is one of the tankers that Russia has been using to supply jet fuel to its air force in Syria. It would pick up its cargo at one of Russia’s ports on the Azov Sea, sail through the Kerch Strait, across the Black Sea, across the Bosphorus, past Istanbul, into the Mediterranean, and then dock in Syria.
Analysts said this is a fair military target because it was once again transporting jet fuel to the Russian air force.
Assistant Comments Editor Francis Dearnley talks about the implications of this attack:
The attacks on shipping in the Black Sea are interesting; Ukrainian officials have also issued a notice to sailors using a number of Russian ports that they may be the target of offensive operations. According to one estimate, 30% of Russia’s oil exports leave these ports. Significantly, there is not enough pipeline infrastructure to transport all the oil that China is buying, so ships are still used. Russia may be trying to starve the world through grain terrorism, but the Ukraine seems to be trying to cut off the oil exports that still sustain the Russian war machine.
Wheat prices have risen further after Ukraine threatened to cut off a key export route for Russian staples through the Black Sea. This is important for its energy markets, but it is also important for food: Russia moves most of its grain via waterway and is in the midst of a second bumper crop, making this a time crucial to get crops to markets and ensure a sufficient supply to limit global food costs. The executive director of the broker and adviser IKON Commodities said: “The risk in the Black Sea is increasing day by day and any threat to Russian exports is much more potent than a threat to the Ukrainian export corridor.”
Wheat futures in Chicago, the global benchmark, rose as much as 3.4% to $6.545 a bushel. Prices closed 1% higher on Friday, paring most of a 4.3% intraday gain after Ukraine’s attack on the warship. Traffic in the port was halted for several hours.
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