KYIV (Reuters) – Russia has withdrawn previously announced restrictions for ships in the Sea of Azov linked to naval drills in the area, Ukraine’s sea port Authority said on Friday.
“The movement of ships by recommended routes to the seaports of Ukraine in the Sea of Azov is open,” the Authority said in a report.
Ukraine, one of the world’s leading exporters of steel, grain and sunflower oil, carries exports through ports on the Black and Azov Seas – Odessa, Pivdeny, Chornomorsk, Kherson, Mariupol and Berdyansk.
Ukrainian officials have criticised Russian drills near Ukraine’s coast, saying the presence of warships was part of a “hybrid war” that had made navigation in the Black Sea and Azov Sea virtually impossible.
The Authority said this week the shipping restrictions would last from Feb. 13-19 and the “movement of vessels … to the seaports of Ukraine in the Sea of Azov will be blocked for the entire period of these activities”.
Ukrainian grain traders said in Friday that Russia’s naval drills and the closure of traditional shipping routes had so far not affected the Ukrainian grain export market.
Moscow is staging naval drills in the Black Sea this month at the same time as it holds land manoeuvres north of Ukraine in Belarus, part of a show of force that the West says could be a precursor to an invasion. Moscow denies planning to attack its neighbour.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alex Richardson)