Ankara: Turkey said it has taken precautions against alleged drifting mines in the Black Sea after they broke off from anchor cables near Ukrainian ports.
“I hope they self-destruct without an accident or we will observe and destroy them with our anti-mine ships,” Xinhua news agency quoted Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying to the Hurriyet Daily newspaper.
Turkish authorities have been conducting surveillance operations to detect if the mines were drifting toward Turkey’s coasts and straits, he told the daily.
“There are statements that some mines were drifted. Just in case, we are following by surveillance, including our planes, helicopters, frigates. Our mine-hunting ships, helicopters, and UAVs are after them,” Akar said.
Turkish authorities on Monday issued a NAVTEX, or navigational alert, to warn ships in the Black Sea against the mines.
“The mines can be drifted upon release from their gear and can be dangerous to navigational safety. Therefore, it is important to keep a sharp lookout for drifted mines by all ships in the vicinity,” said the NAVTEX.
The authorities asked the ships to report immediately any detection of drifted mine or mine-like objects to the Turkish main search and rescue coordination centre and the Turkish Naval Forces.
Russia has accused Ukraine’s Navy of deploying mines near the ports of Odessa, Ochakov, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny since the start of Moscow’s invasion on February 24.
As storms broke mine anchor cables, the mines were floating in the western part of the Black Sea, the Russian government said said, adding that nearly 420 mines had broken off the anchors and might drift toward Bosporus and the Mediterranean Sea by winds and currents.
Ukraine has however rejected the allegation, saying it was disinformation.