On 20 July, John Kirby, a US National Security Council spokesman, accused Russia of engaging in a “false flag” operation designed to blame Ukraine for attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea that may occur in the coming days and weeks. He said that Russia had a day earlier released a video showing the “detection and detonation” of what the video claimed was a Ukrainian sea mine, The New York Times reports.
“We believe that this is rather a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea, and then blame them on Ukraine,” Mr. Kirby said, adding that “we have no evidence” that the mine was Ukrainian.
After backing out of the UN- and Türkiye-brokered deal that allowed grain exports from Ukraine through the Black Sea, Russia said it considered all ships headed to Ukrainian ports potential carriers of military cargo and that they could be treated as hostile. Also, Russian sea mines on routes into Ukrainian ports threaten the broader shipping industry, according to officials. A Russian air attack on Greater Odesa ports destroyed 60,000 tons of grain and agriculture infrastructure.
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