NATO jets monitor as 3 civilian ships run through Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine

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Three civilian cargo ships ran the Russian blockade in the Black Sea on Sunday and anchored at one of Ukraine’s grain ports on the Danube Delta, under the watchful eyes of NATO planes monitoring from the skies.

Washington-based think tank Institute of Study of War (ISW) wrote in an assessment that Naval tracking imagery published on July 30 showed three civilian ships advertising their destination of Ukraine over their ships’ automatic identification system (AIS) and sailing to Ukraine without the Russian Black Sea Fleet stopping and searching the vessels.

“Reports of three civilian ships sailing to Ukraine unhindered may suggest that Russia is either unwilling or unable to enforce such searches at this time,” ISW wrote.

Several NATO aircraft watchfully monitored the ships – one each from Israel and Greece plus one with Turkish-Georgian registration – as they sailed toward Izmail, a small Ukrainian port just across from Romania on the Danube River, Forbes reported.

The NATO warplanes which patrolled were a US Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol plane, a US Army Challenger with a surface-scanning radar, a US Air Force RQ-4 drone and an E-3 early-warning plane from NATO, according to

NATO fighter jets – including Italian Eurofighters and Romanian F-16s—were nearby in Romania.

“Operating from Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base on the shores of the Black Sea, in a complex geo-political context at a distance of only 80 km from the southern border of the Odessa district in Ukraine and 70 miles from the ‘Temporary Danger Area’ were Russia carries out operations over Ukraine, is undoubtedly a task of great responsibility, but also full of satisfaction, both from a professional and a personal point of view,” said Colonel Antonino Massara, Commander of the Italian Air Force detachment executing NATO’s enhanced Air Policing duties in Romania.

This comes in after Moscow decided two weeks ago it will start considering all vessels traveling on the Black Sea heading to Ukrainian ports as “potential military cargo carriers”, declaring a number of areas in the northwestern and southeastern parts of the international waters of the Black Sea as “temporarily dangerous for navigation,” and adding that the flag countries of ships traveling to Ukrainian ports will be considered parties to the conflict on Kyiv’s side.

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