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KYIV: President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video published on Tuesday that Ukraine would fight back against Russia in the Black Sea to ensure its waters were not blockaded and it could import and export grain and other goods.

The comments, published on the president’s website, come days after Ukrainian maritime drones packed with explosives damaged a Russian warship near a major Russian port and struck a Russian tanker.

“If Russia continues to dominate the Black Sea, outside its territory, blockading or firing at us again, launching missiles at our ports, Ukraine will do the same. This is a just defence of our opportunities, of any corridor,” Zelenskiy said.

“We don’t have that many ships. But they should clearly understand that by the end of the war, they will have zero ships, zero.”

He called on Russia to stop firing missiles and drones at Ukrainian ports and to allow trade to take place, in comments made at a briefing with reporters from Latin American countries.

It was not clear when the briefing at his office in Kyiv had taken place.

Tensions in and near the Black Sea have escalated since Russia last month withdrew from a deal allowing the safe export of grain from Ukrainian ports. Russian drones and missiles have repeatedly struck Ukrainian port facilities and grain silos.

Ukraine responded by launching sea-drone attacks on a Russian oil tanker and a Russian warship at its Novorossiysk naval base, next door to a major grain and oil port.

Russia blocked Ukrainian Black Sea ports at the start of its invasion in February 2022. The blockade is suffocating Ukraine economically as its pre-war economy was largely export-driven, with steel and grains as key exports.

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