Turkey blocks Royal Navy minehunters going to Ukraine

Two Sandown Class minehunters were pledged to Kyiv in December to help its navy in the battle against Russia
Two Sandown Class minehunters were pledged to Kyiv in December to help its navy in the battle against Russia - Lt Nicholas Stevenson RN

Turkey has refused to allow Royal Navy minehunters donated to Ukraine to pass through its waters, blocking them from reaching the Black Sea.

The two ships were pledged to Kyiv in December to help its navy in the battle against Russia.

But on Tuesday, the office of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the transfer would violate the 1936 Montreux Convention which stops warships passing through its Bosphorus and Gallipoli straits during conflicts.

The straits are the only sea route to the Black Sea and Nato member Turkey insists it has implemented the ban impartially since the war in Ukraine began.

Russia has no need to use the straits to access the Ukrainian coast.

“Our pertinent allies have been duly apprised that the minehunting ships donated to Ukraine by the United Kingdom will not be allowed to pass through the Turkish Straits to the Black Sea as long as the war continues,” Turkey said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Britain is yet to comment.

The two ships were the leading parts of a new naval coalition formed with Norway to strengthen Ukraine’s capabilities in the mine-ridden Black Sea.

The Maritime Capability Coalition aimed to counter the threat of Russian sea explosives to help restore Ukraine’s grain exports and make importing supplies easier.

The Telegraph understands that the Ministry of Defence expected the ships to be banned from passing through Turkish waters when it donated them.

It is understood the vessels are part of a longer-term British commitment to Ukraine’s naval presence in the Black Sea that extends beyond the war with Russia. Ukrainian troops can still be trained on the vessels.

The blockage of the two minehunters, which use sonar to scour the depths for explosives and sea drones to destroy them, is set to be a serious setback.

“These minehunters will deliver vital capability to Ukraine which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes, which have been severely limited since Putin launched his illegal full-scale invasion,” Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, said at the time.

Turkey has struck a delicate balance between Ukraine and Russia during the war, maintaining good ties with both.

Britain has previously accused Russia of considering laying sea mines in the humanitarian corridor established in the Black Sea to facilitate grain exports.

On Wednesday last week, a cargo ship hit a Russian mine on its way to a port on the river Danube, injuring two crew members.

Ukraine has previously said that Russian attacks on Ukraine’s port infrastructure have increased since mid-July when Moscow quit a United Nations-brokered deal allowing Ukrainian grain shipments to pass safely through the Black Sea.

Kyiv has since established an alternative route which hugs the western shores of the Black Sea.

It says Russian forces have been repeatedly laying mines in the vicinity of the new route.