Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday Kyiv and its European allies will pay special attention to the Black Sea region and work on strengthening air defenses, making his statements upon arrival in Spain to take part in the European Political Community Summit which is set to assemble the leaders of some 50 European countries.
“We are working together with partners on enhancing the European security architecture, particularly regional security. Ukraine has substantial proposals in this regard. We will pay special attention to the Black Sea region as well as our joint efforts to strengthen global food security and freedom of navigation,” Zelenskyy said on X (formerly Twitter).
Zelenskyy added: “Ukraine's key priority, particularly as winter approaches, is to strengthen air defense. We have already laid the groundwork for new agreements with partners and look forward to their approval and implementation.”
Kyiv has long argued that it lacked air defense systems to protect the entire territory of the country from Russian strikes. Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said in August that Ukraine's armed forces’ top priority is the provision of air defense systems, including aviation.
Meanwhile, the Black Sea has come under international scrutiny as Russia continued to target civilian shipping including by laying sea mines in the approach to Ukrainian ports, according to the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
“The UK assesses Russia is seeking to target civilian shipping travelling through Ukraine’s ‘humanitarian corridor’ in order to deter the export of Ukrainian grain,” the FCDO said.
It added: “This would continue Russia’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainian economy. Russia almost certainly wants to avoid openly sinking civilian ships, instead falsely laying blame on Ukraine for any attacks against civilian vessels in the Black Sea.”
“Russia’s latest plans are part of a wider pattern of Russian aggression in the Black Sea. Since July, Russia has systematically targeted Ukrainian port and civilian infrastructure.”
The FCDO highlighted that since the withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia has damaged 130 port infrastructure facilities in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Reni. It also destroyed almost 300,000 tonnes of grain – more than the total amount Russia promised to donate to African states, and enough to feed over 1.3 million people for a year.
Russia’s withdrawal from the initiative led to up to 24 million tonnes of foodstuffs from Ukraine not reaching global markets over the coming year unless Ukraine can create alternative export routes.