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Following the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Russian Black Sea Fleet "has altered its posture" in preparation to enforce a blockade on Ukraine's ports, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its July 26 intelligence update.
The Russian corvette Sergey Kotov has been deployed to patrol the shipping lane between the Bosphorus and Odesa. The ministry reported that there is a "realistic possibility" that it will join a force that will intercept any commercial cargo ships sailing to Ukrainian ports.
There is now "the potential for the intensity and scope of violence in the area to increase," according to the U.K. intelligence update.
Moscow announced that it would not extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17. The UN-backed deal, which was brokered in July 2022, allowed Ukraine to export grain though its Black Sea ports.
The Russian Defense Ministry declared on July 19 that, as of July 20, all vessels sailing to Ukrainian ports will be considered "potential carriers of military cargo" and therefore legitimate targets.
Since July 18, Odesa and the other ports along the coast of the Black Sea have been repeatedly attacked by Russia.
On July 19, Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi reported that Russian attacks had destroyed 60,000 tons of grain in Chornomorsk.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed on July 23 that their strike on Odesa had targeted "facilities where terrorist acts against Russia were being prepared." The attack damaged the city's cathedral and historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ukrainian authorities reported that 19 missiles were used in the attack.
On July 24, Russia used attack drones to strike port infrastructure on the Danube, destroying a hangar used for storing grain. The attack took place in the far southwest of Ukraine, just 200 meters from the border with Romania, a NATO member state.
U.K. intelligence previously reported on July 20 that the Russian Black Sea Fleet will likely play an active role in blocking trade routes, but the blockade will be at risk from Ukrainian surface drones and cruise missiles.