The arrival of three neutral merchant ships in Romanian waters close to a Ukrainian grain port on the Danube delta on July 30 would have merited little mention before February 2022. Now, with Russia effectively proclaiming that the northern Black Sea is its lake and that blockade runners face attack or seizure, it has caused a lot of excitement.
Open intelligence social media reports, where the story originated, said vessels were flagged in three countries, including Israel and Greece, but that all three were owned by Turkish-managed companies. Three more ships were said to be heading in the same direction. The icing on the cake was more open-source material showing an unusual number of US and NATO monitoring aircraft over the Black Sea on July 30, possibly shepherding the vessels toward safe harbor. The vessels do indeed appear to be near the Danube delta, but none is confirmed to have entered Ukrainian waters or a Ukrainian port.
It is far from clear that a sustained effort to break the blockade is underway, even if that’s what President Zelenskyy wants. He spoke to Turkey’s President Erdoğan about the issue on July 22 and to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.