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TOPIC: black sea

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Inside Russia's "Shadow Fleet" Of Oil Tankers That Help It Skirt Sanctions

Russia has become the most sanctioned country in the world since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in 2022, but data show that the country has mobilized a fleet of off-the-books ships to continue selling oil around the world.

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in Feb. 2022, Western countries implemented sanctions against Russia in an effort to limit its ability to fund the war in Ukraine.

In Dec. 2022, both the European Union and the UK imposed bans on the import of Russian oil by sea. Two months later, restrictions on petroleum products were also put in place. A mechanism designed to control the sea transportation of these energy products based on a specified price limit was also introduced.

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The primary goal of these measures was to reduce Russia's income from oil exports and, simultaneously, stabilize global fuel prices . Most nations agreed to establish a maximum price of $60 per barrel for both oil and oil products. Those countries that purchased Russian raw materials above this price limit would face consequences, including the loss of access to crucial services provided by reputable global companies. These services encompass internationally recognized ship insurance and the ability to use the European tanker fleet, which includes ships owned by Greece and Cyprus.

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Black Sea, Overboard — How A Ukrainian Special Agent Faced Down Death In Enemy Waters

This is a tale of a Ukrainian special forces operator who wound up surviving 14 hours at sea, staying afloat and dodging Russian air and sea patrols.

Updated Oct. 5, 2023 at 2:50 p.m.

KYIV — During a covert operation in the Black Sea, a Ukrainian special agent was thrown overboard and spent the next 14 hours alone at sea, surrounded by enemy forces.

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The agent, who uses the call-sign "Conan," agreed to speak to Ukrainska Pravda, to share the details of nearly being lost forever at sea. He also shared some background on how he arrived in the Ukrainian special forces. Having grown up in a village in a rural territory of Ukraine, Conan describes himself as "a simple guy."

He'd worked in law enforcement, personal security and had a job as a fitness trainer when Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. That's when he signed up with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Main Directorate of Intelligence "Artan" battalion. It was nearly 18 months into his service, when Conan faced the most harrowing experience of the war .

Here's his first-hand account...

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Sinking The Moskva, Inside Ukraine's Biggest Strike On The Russian Black Sea Fleet

As Ukraine steps up its attacks on the Black Sea fleet and other targets in Crimea, here's the inside story of Russia's devastating naval defeat in April, 2022.

Updated September 15, 2023 at 2:30 p.m.

KYIV — On April 13, 2022 the Russian military suffered its worst naval defeat in modern times when the flagship of Moscow’s fleet, the cruiser Moskva based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, was sunk.

Based on dozens of interviews with Ukrainian military officials and viewing never-before-seen photos of the incident, Kyiv-based news service Ukrainian Pravda has conducted its own exclusive investigation to reconstruct how Ukraine successfully carried out the attack.

Russia still actively avoids any public references to the Moskva, and there are relatives of dead sailors who still have not received any information about the fate of their loved ones. The Russian Defense Ministry has offered no details about the causes of the sinking, claiming that the ship suffered "surfacing failure," after a fire. Moscow has made allusion to bad weather and claimed that all crew members had been rescued.

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Battle For The Danube? Putin Risks Pushing Ukraine War Into NATO Territory

In recent months, Moscow has intensified its attacks on Ukrainian grain export routes that are dangerously close to NATO member Romania. Is Putin playing with fire?


One day, perhaps, there will be a movie about "The Battle of the Danube," much like René Clément directed The Battle of the Rails in 1946, about the French railway workers' resistance during World War II. But for now, it's a war, in its most brutal form: a war to prevent Ukraine from exporting its grains and cereals , which part of the world needs for sustenance.

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On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, to convince him to reconsider the cereal agreement he had denounced in July. In vain. Even for Erdogan, Putin did not yield. He only offered to supply one million tons of Russian cereals, via Turkey, to six African countries allied with Moscow, such as Mali or Eritrea.

The Russian blockade thus keeps preventing Ukraine from exporting its cereals, its primary source of wealth , through the most natural route: from the port of Odessa via the Black Sea. Only four ships have managed to pass since July — a mere drop in the ocean.

Hence, the search for an alternative route remains, and this is where the war takes a worrying turn.

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Carolina Drüten

How The Greek Shipping Industry Is Cashing In On Putin's War

Moscow relies on international shipping companies to ship its oil, especially tankers flying the Greek flag. To protect its lucrative business, Athens is resisting tougher sanctions — and thus playing right into Vladimir Putin's hands.

ATHENS — The world knows by now how much oil revenues help finance Russia's war against Ukraine . Around one-quarter of Russia's budget is still fed by its sale, compared with around one-third before the war. The country requires foreign companies to ship the oil internationally. Since the beginning of the Ukraine war, one European country has been profiting particularly well from the dynamic: Greece.

Greek tankers in particular ship the oil from Russia, especially from Russian ports in the Black Sea. Athens has also made sure to defend its business interests at the European Union level — and thus helped water down the sanctions against Russia, to the great dismay of Ukraine.

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"Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, Greece deliberately relocated its tanker fleet to Russian ports to transport Russian oil," says Robin Brooks, chief economist at the International Finance Federation (IIF).

In a recent analysis, Brooks examined the routes Russian oil takes through the Black Sea. "Other Western shipping companies withdrew, so margins went up, the business became very profitable," he says.

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Important Stories

What Awaits The Ex-Prisoners Recruited By Wagner? For Now, Drinking Poolside

The last of the former convicts who served under the Wagner mercenary are heading home. According to private Telegram chats of the soldiers' relatives, many are currently staying in resorts and hotels along the Black Sea awaiting pardons, and behaving badly. Some may end up staying on with Wagner in Belarus.

Before launching its aborted mutiny last month , the Wagner Group mercenaries stirred controversy by recruiting Russian convicts to serve on the frontline of the war in Ukraine. Thousands of often dangerous criminals signed up for at least a year on the front in exchange for their freedom, with a pardon from their jail sentences after their service.

But this infamous practice appears to have ended recently, with Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin now having to decide what to do with all former prisoners who served as mercenaries.

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“Project K is closed,” a Wagner representative wrote in a Telegram chat, referring to the name of the convict-recruiting program

Many of the former convicts are now in hotels in or near the coastal town of Anapa on the Black Sea, waiting for official pardons or their contracts to expire. Vazhnyye Istorii learned about this after identifying messages of relatives of mercenary ex-convicts and representatives of the group in their private chats.

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This Happened

This Happened — June 22: Operation Barbarossa Begins

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. It was launched on this day 1941, and aimed to conquer Soviet territory, defeat the Soviet military, and ultimately establish German dominance in Eastern Europe.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

In Sevastopol, Russia Secretly Honors The Black Sea Crew It Won't Admit It Lost

In the secrecy that often surrounds wars, and in the realm of information warfare, losses are often deliberately underreported or completely omitted. But this case in Crimean port city of Sevastopol is pure paradox.

SEVASTOPOL — A year after its sinking near Snake Island, a monument to the crew of the sunken rescue tug Vasily Bekh was unveiled at the Russian Navy's Black Sea base of Sevastopol , according to independent Russian news sites agents.media ( Agenstvo ). For the past year, the Russian Ministry of Defense has never publicly reported the ship’s loss.

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On June 17, 2022, the Ukrainian navy announced that they had struck the tugboat while it was carrying military equipment, personnel and ammunition to resupply Snake Island, which Russian forces occupied at the time.

The photos of the monument were taken by Dmitry Shkrebets, father a sailor killed on another sunken vessel, the Russian Moskva cruiser, which Ukrainian forces sank on April 14, 2022.

He said that only the Navy's press service was allowed to take photos of the monument, and all guests had their phones confiscated. Military police allegedly ensured that no one took any pictures.

Despite this, Shkrebets claimed that he was provided with a photo of the monument before the unveiling. In the picture, the names on the plaque are covered.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

This Is How The Kakhovka Dam Attack Will Change The War

The destruction of the hydroelectric dam has caused massive flooding and is forcing mass evacuations. And while the disaster is threatening local populations, it is also bound to alter the course of the war — in more ways than one.


The destruction of the Kakhovka dam is among the worst man-made disasters ever seen in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which had already seen devastating fighting during the Russian invasion. But it also comes as Ukrainian troops begin their much anticipated push into Russian-occupied territory — indeed, it was likely timed with that in mind.

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So how will the destroyed infrastructure, widespread flooding and humanitarian catastrophe along the Dnipro River affect the counteroffensive ?

In the areas flooded by the bursting dam, the situation is developing rapidly — and the consequences have already surpassed the worst forecasts of both Ukrainian and international experts.

The affected area includes territories on both banks of the Dnipro River, from the town of Nova Kakhovka, where the dam and hydroelectric power plant were located, to the outflow of the river into the Black Sea near the Kingsburg Spit, which rising water levels have turned into an island.

Changing the area's landscape, urgent evacuation of people, and the actual transfer of the front line in this region will inevitably affect the course of the war, especially given Ukraine's offensive to liberate the southern territories . From experts and information on the ground, here's a forecast of five ways the dam's destruction will change the war:

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Basile Dekonink

Alexandroupoli, How The Ukraine War Made This Sleepy Greek Port A Geopolitical Hub

Once neglected, this small port in Thrace, northeastern Greece, has become a strategic hub for transporting men and arms to the shores of the Black Sea. Propelled by ambitious infrastructure and gas projects, the region dreams of becoming an alternative to the Bosphorus strait.

ALEXANDROUPOLI — Looks like there's a traffic jam in the port of Alexandroupoli.

Lined up in tight rows on the quay reserved for military activities, hundreds of vehicles — mostly light armored vehicles — are piled up under the sun. Moored at the pier, the "USNS Brittin," an impressive 290-meter roll-off cargo ship flying the flag of the U.S. Navy, is about to set sail. But what is all this gear doing in this remote corner of the sea in Thrace, in the far northeast of Greece?

Of all the geopolitical upheavals caused by the Russian offensive of Feb. 24 2022 , Alexandroupoli is perhaps the most surprising. Once isolated and neglected, this modest port in the Eastern Mediterranean, mainly known for its maritime connection to the nearby island of Samothrace, is being revived.

Diplomats of all kinds are flocking there, investors are pouring in, and above all, military ships are arriving at increasingly regular intervals. The capital of the province of Evros has become, in the midst of the war in Ukraine, a hub for transporting arms and men to the shores of the Black Sea.

“If you look north from Alexandroupoli, along the Evros River, you can see a corridor. A corridor for trade, for the transport of goods and people to the heart of the Balkans and, a little further, to Ukraine," explains the port's CEO, Konstantinos Chatzikonstantinou, from his office right on the docks. According to him, the sudden interest in this small town of 70,000 inhabitants is explained by "geography, geography, and… geography.”

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In The News
Ginevra Falciani, Renate Mattar, Emma Albright, Anne-Sophie Goninet

U.S. Drone Incident Video, Credit Suisse Lifeline, Lunar Fashion

👋 Sannu!*

Welcome to Thursday, where the U.S. releases a video of the drone incident with a Russian fighter jet, Credit Suisse borrows big, and we get a first look at NASA’s new Moon spacesuits. Meanwhile, Rubén M. Perina in Buenos Aires-based daily Clarín lays out why Latin America should be wary of China’s economic might in Argentina .

[*Hausa - Nigeria]

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Carolina Drueten, Christine Kensche

Erdogan's Opening? Why Turkey Sees Ukraine War As A Chance To Target Kurds In Syria

As the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia meet to discuss the situation in Syria, the West is closely watching Turkish President Erdoğan's moves on Kurdish separatists in northern Syria, now that Moscow is focused on Ukraine.

- Analysis -

It wasn't long ago that Moscow dictated what happened in Syria. Vladimir Putin has been the most important ally of Syria's regime, which would have likely collapsed long ago without Russia's support.

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But the war in Ukraine has shifted the political balance in the region — and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can see his chance.

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