UK sends minehunter drones to Ukraine to clear way for grain exports

The UK is sending underwater drones to Ukraine to clear its coastline of mines in an effort to free up food supplies trapped during the Russian invasion.

Ukrainian personnel will receive training in Britain on how to use the six autonomous vehicles to help the flow of grain to the rest of the world resume after exports from the country dubbed “Europe’s breadbasket” were severely disrupted, putting pressure on global prices.

The Government has accused Moscow of weaponising food by destroying Ukrainian agriculture and blockading the country’s Black Sea ports to prevent shipments, with devastating consequences for the world’s poorest people.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
(PA Graphics)

Supplies have now started to shift as exports resume following a UN-brokered agreement in July.

But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said efforts to get food out of the country continue to be hampered by sea mines left by Russian forces.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Moscow’s “cynical attempts to hold the world’s food supply to ransom” must not succeed.

“This vital equipment and training will help Ukraine make their waters safe, helping to smooth the flow of grain to the rest of the world and supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine as they look to defend their coastline and ports,” he said.

The drones are designed for use in shallow coastal environments, operating at depths of up to 100m to detect mines using an array of sensors.

Dozens of Ukrainian Navy personnel will be taught to use the equipment over the coming months.

Admiral Sir Ben Key, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, said: “Through the expert skills being taught here, our Ukrainian allies will be able to clear their own waters of mines.

“These weapons target shipping indiscriminately, but particularly affect civilian traffic and trade and have had a devastating impact on freedom of navigation in the Black Sea.

“This training is another powerful demonstration of the UK’s ongoing commitment to Ukraine in their fight to defend their country and repel Russian aggression.”