Russia

How could warships form corridor to protect grain exports in Black Sea?

UK is backing 'coalition of the willing' to break the Russian blockade but currently has no plans to deploy warships to help.

The UK is backing a plan for a naval effort to lift the Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea. 

Discussions have been held about forming a "coalition of the willing" to form a protective corridor from Odesa through the Bosphorous – a natural strait, located in northwestern Turkey, connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara – for cargo ships.

Pete Sandeman, director of the Navy Lookout website, has spoken to Forces News and given his thoughts on how likely it is and what it could mean for the Royal Navy. 

Russia's stranglehold in the Black Sea has prevented Ukraine from exporting its grain. 

Royal Navy ships could be deployed to help with the UK's talks on the idea of a protective corridor from Odesa.

Mr Sandeman believes it could be "one of those things that the good ideas club has come up with quickly" and "without necessarily thinking through all the complications and issues that are involved".

Russia's co-operation and potential hurdles

The Director of the Navy Lookout said: "If Russia agreed to some sort of reopening of trade it would be relatively straightforward, perhaps only really mine clearance would be involved.

"Unfortunately as the closure of the Black Sea, in one sense is really Russia's only strategic win of the war. And it's very difficult to imagine they are going to tolerate Ukraine restarting its maritime trade.

"If the Russians oppose this, then there are lots of hurdles to be overcome.

"First of all, you've got to get an agreement from the Turks to allow escorting warships into the Black Sea.

"Whether the Turks would be willing to antagonise Russia in that way is questionable. That's the first big hurdle.

"Then you've got to clear the mines," he added.

"There have been mines reported as far as south of Turkey, so then you've got to get a substantial mines counter-measures force into the Black Sea, potentially operating in an environment that the Russians might be contesting them so you've got to protect them."

Watch: Why Odesa is so important to Ukraine and Russia.

He went on: "If the Russians don't agree to this idea then it's virtually unworkable.

"I'm not an expert on geopolitics but my kind of guess would be the only way this is really likely to be solved is if there was some sort of deal done with the Russians where western nations agree to lift sanctions or partially lift sanctions in exchange for allowing Ukraine to export some of its grain.

"But I don't really see this being resolved militarily."

Government statement

A Government spokesperson said: "Putin's despicable blockade of Odesa is preventing food getting to people who need it.

"We will continue to work intensively with international partners to find ways to resume the export of grain from Ukraine.

"However, there are no current plans to deploy UK warships to the Black Sea."