Ukraine accuses Russia of piracy as foreign vessel detained in Black Sea
Photo: Serhii Kryvenko / Marine Traffic

Kyiv has accused Russia of piracy and has advised the vessels heading towards Ukraine to stay within the territorial waters of NATO countries, Ukrainian officials said following an incident with the Sukru Okan vessel in the Black Sea on Sunday.

The Palau-flagged merchant ship was apprehended and reportedly shot at by Russia’s Vasily Bykov patrol ship after the former’s capital allegedly refused to halt the vessel for inspection.

"Russia's targeted shelling and forced inspection of the international civilian cargo ship Sukru Okan, which was heading to the Ukrainian port of Izmail, is an unconditional violation of international maritime law, an act of piracy and a crime against civilian vessels of a third country in the waters of other states," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, tweeted.

He added that Ukraine would "draw all the necessary conclusions and choose the best response" to Russia's actions.

Oleksandr Kubrakov, the deputy prime minister of Ukraine in charge of infrastructure and reconstruction, recommended that the ships not go beyond the territorial waters of Turkiye, Bulgaria, and Romania — all of which are NATO members — on their way to Ukraine.

In a Facebook post, he said it was necessary "in order to avoid provocations", calling on the International Maritime Organisation to respond firmly to Moscow’s actions.

Separately, the Ukrainian foreign ministry called the incident with the Sukru Okan ship a violation of the UN Charter and the Convention on the Law of the Sea and other norms of international law.

"Such actions are yet another example of Russia's deliberate policy of creating threats to freedom of navigation and safety of merchant shipping in the Black Sea," the ministry said in a statement.

In July, Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain initiative, which had helped ship millions of tons of grain from Ukrainian ports, and warned that it would consider all vessels travelling in the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports as potential carriers of military cargo.