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16 Aug 2023

Romanian Navy Deployed After Stray Mine Explodes on Black Sea Beach

Romanian Navy Deployed After Stray Mine Explodes on Black Sea Beach
Originally posted on The European Conservative

The Romanian Navy deployed a ship and a helicopter to search for stray sea mines drifting in the Black Sea after a pier exploded near a busy beach at the popular tourist destination of Costinesti on Monday, August 14th, the local daily Adevarul reported the same day.

Although not yet confirmed by evidence, the local authorities believe the explosion was caused by a stray mine that might have drifted away from nearby Ukrainian coasts. This theory seemed to be further substantiated when people spotted another sea mine not far from the beach. A Navy bomb squad was promptly dispatched to defuse the mine before it could reach the shoreline, but the search team concluded that it was a false alarm.

Costinesti is one of the most popular seaside resorts on Romania’s Black Sea coast, whose beaches were especially busy when the incident occurred because of the long holiday weekend. Fortunately, no one was harmed, and the pier suffered only slight damage as the mine exploded when touching the wavebreaker rocks below. 

Following the explosion, the Romanian Navy reportedly deployed a ship and a helicopter with specialized divers to search the area along the coastline for other unaccounted mines. The Coast Guard and the police also remained in a state of readiness until the waters were deemed safe later that day.

Authorities and experts have long been warning about the dangers of the extensive mining of the Black Sea by both sides of the war. According to Kyiv, Russia placed 400-600 sea mines at the beginning of the conflict around the port city of Odesa, while the Russian military mapped at least 370 Ukrainian mines by March 2022, which were placed along the shore to prevent an invasion from the sea.

Even though the (since failed) Ukraine Grain Deal allowed a humanitarian corridor to be demarcated around Odesa in July 2022, most mines have remained in place. According to Washington, Russia laid additional sea mines after the deal collapsed last month, further aggravating the problem.

Mines in the Black Sea have claimed several civilian lives near Ukraine before, but this is the first time one of them has exploded near the coasts of another country. These mines are prohibited from being placed in international waters, and they must be anchored to the seabed to prevent them from drifting off.

But, according to the Ukrainian authorities, it is not at all uncommon that their links fail and the mines go missing. “There is a high probability of naval mines breaking off their anchors and washing up on the shore, as well as drifting along the coast,” Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman of the Odesa military administration warned on Telegram earlier this year.

The explosion prompted a lively discussion in the Romanian public sphere, as both politicians and pundits put forward theories regarding the mine’s true origin. According to former Foreign Minister Adrian Cioranu, “It is very plausible that this is a Russian intimidation scenario to intimidate all forms of shipping in the Black Sea, especially those carrying Ukrainian grain and including those that the Russians believe are bringing weapons to Ukraine.”

“Anything is possible,” the former diplomat continued, even the possibility that the mine was

specifically intended for the Romanian coast, precisely to target grain transporters using the port of Constanta. It is not a question of [Russia] necessarily provoking a NATO state, but a feeling of insecurity that they want to create in the northern Black Sea.

However, most experts seem to agree that it was probably just an accident, and recent storms could be the reason why the mine broke off, regardless of whether it was of Russian or Ukrainian origin. According to Cristian Barna, a former intelligence officer, the incident was “simply one of those unfortunate events near a conflict zone” that are expected to happen from time to time, and “are far from giving cause for triggering Article 5 [of NATO].” 

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