ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A military diving team deactivated a stray naval mine off Turkey’s northwest coast on Monday, Turkey’s defence ministry said, the second such device to be defused in the area in days amid the war in Ukraine.
NATO member Turkey borders the Black Sea, as does Russia and Ukraine, which Moscow invaded on Feb. 24.
Russia’s main intelligence agency last week accused Ukraine of laying mines to protect ports and said several hundred of the explosives had broken off from cables and drifted away. Kyiv dismissed that account as disinformation.
“The mine detected off the coast of Igneada was deactivated by SAS (underwater defence) teams,” the Turkish defence ministry statement said, referring to a district in Turkey’s Kirklareli province which borders Bulgaria.
The Black Sea is a major shipping route for grain, oil and oil products. It links to the Marmara and the Mediterranean seas via the Bosphorus strait, which runs through the heart of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city with 16 million residents.
A shipping executive said the mines threatened shipping.
“The stray mines pose a major risk in the Straits as they could cause a disaster, especially it they hit crude oil ships,” Kubilay Ali, general operations manager at Tribeca Shipping, said.
He said the mines also present a danger for smaller ships, adding that defence ministry boats were keeping watch and scanning the Bosphorus for similar objects as a precaution.
On Saturday, Turkey warned vessels to stay away as a dive team inspected a “mine-like object” floating north of Istanbul.
Defence Minister Hulusi Akar later said the military deactivated that mine and a Reuters witness heard a loud bang off the coastal village of Rumelifeneri to the north of the city. The object, first discovered by fishermen, was described as an old type of mine. [nL2N2VT06X]
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Andrew Heavens)