MOSCOW: Russia said Wednesday it would consider cargo ships headed for Ukraine via the Black Sea as potential military targets, following Moscow’s decision to exit a landmark deal for the export of grain from Ukraine.

Following a second night of strikes around the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa, President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of deliberately targeting grain export infrastructure and putting vulnerable countries at risk.

Kyiv at the same time urged other countries in the Black Sea region to intervene to assure the safe passage of cargo ships.

The effective closure of the sea route reignited fears of being flooded with cheap grain among Ukraine’s European neighbours, who called on the EU to extend an import ban.

“From 00:00 am Moscow time on 20 July 2023 (2100 GMT Wednesday), all vessels sailing on the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be regarded as potential carriers of military cargo,” the Russian defence ministry said.

“Flag states of such vessels will be considered to be involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime,” the ministry said in the warning.

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