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Explosive mines offshore leading to ‘dangerous beach season’ for Ukrainians

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Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Photo: Cem Oskuz/Pool via Reuters

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Photo: Cem Oskuz/Pool via Reuters

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Photo: Cem Oskuz/Pool via Reuters

Beachgoers in Ukraine should watch out for hazardous mines that lie underwater, the country’s national guard has warned, after a man diving in Odesa was killed instantly by an explosion.

As summer kicks off in Ukraine, officials are calling the threat “explosive-dangerous beach season”. They are urging people to stay away from coastal destinations that were once places to unwind and cool off – but are now home to hidden munitions.

The 50-year-old man, who has not been identified, was diving for sea snails moments before the explosion happened. The blast flung his body into the air as his wife, child and a friend unpacked their bags on the shore.

The national guard warned that although the mines lurk underwater, they can also be “brought to shore by the current at any moment.”

Mines are a growing problem throughout Ukraine’s waterways. The war-torn country’s lakes and rivers are also filled with unexploded ordnance, prompting specialist teams to comb the waters to attempt to retrieve devices left behind by Russian attacks.

“The Russians ruined our peaceful environment,” said Andriy Karpyna, who leads the national police department that oversees Ukraine’s waterways. “Normally you would see hundreds of boats with people enjoying the summer.”

The mines are also becoming a challenge for other nations, including Turkey and Romania, where naval forces from each country are grappling to defuse devices that are thought to be drifting across the Black Sea. Bulgarian officials have also warned people living near the coast to watch out for mines, according to local media reports.

While it’s unclear which side’s mine led to the death of the man in Odesa, Ukraine has also planted land mines on its beaches and seeded its ports with sea mines to prevent Russian forces from launching amphibious assaults from the Black Sea.

A suspected Russian mine washed up on a Ukrainian beach in the Odesa region following stormy weather last month. The Ukrainian military said it safely removed what it called an “enemy device”. Taking to Facebook, “Operational Command South”, a branch of the Ukrainian military, shared a video of the device being destroyed.

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Illustrating the danger, officials at the time said the mine became unanchored from whatever was holding it in place and that it was carried to shore by crashing waves. Officials said the discovery served as a reminder of the dangers that beachgoers face as the conflict, which began when Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, rages on. “Fortunately, the beach is patrolled regularly and there were no vacationers,” the military post said.

Concerns about mines are also growing at crucial trade ports and harbours that are key points for the transport of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prices of natural gas, oil, fertiliser and food products are soaring around the world – also fuelled by Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and the ripple effects of Western sanctions on Moscow.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week it would “take some time” to de-mine Ukraine’s ports but that a safe sea corridor could be established in areas without mines under a UN proposal”.

Russia’s intelligence service said in March that bad weather had caused more than 400 naval mines it said were laid by Ukraine to become disconnected from the cables that were anchoring them.

Ukraine disputes the claim. 

© Washington Post


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