Turkey defuses naval mine lost in Black Sea amid war in Ukraine

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A team of military divers deactivated a stray naval mine off Turkey’s northwest coast on Monday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said, the second such device to be defused in the region. in a few days in the middle of the war in Ukraine.

Turkey, a member of NATO, borders the Black Sea, as do Russia and Ukraine, which Moscow invaded on February 24.

Last week, Russia’s main intelligence agency accused Ukraine of laying mines to protect ports and said several hundred explosives had broken loose from cables and drifted away. Kyiv called the account misinformation.

“The mine detected off Igneada has been disabled by SAS (submarine defense) teams,” the Turkish Defense Ministry statement said, referring to a district in the Turkish province of Kirklareli, bordering Bulgaria. .

The Black Sea is a major shipping route for grain, oil and petroleum products. It connects the Sea of ​​Marmara and the Mediterranean Sea via the Bosphorus Strait, which runs through the heart of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city with 16 million inhabitants.

A shipping official said the mines were threatening shipping.

“Roaming mines pose a major risk in the strait as they could cause a disaster, especially if they hit crude oil vessels,” said Kubilay Ali, general manager of operations at Tribeca Shipping.

He said the mines also posed a danger to small ships, adding that Ministry of Defense boats were monitoring and scanning the Bosphorus for similar objects as a precaution.

On Saturday, Turkey warned ships to stay away as a team of divers inspected a “mine-like object” floating north of Istanbul.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar later said the army disabled the mine and a Reuters witness heard a loud bang off the coastal village of Rumelifeneri, north of the city. The object, first discovered by fishermen, has been described as an ancient 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)

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