skip to main content

Ukraine conflict: Estonian cargo ship sinks off Odesa as Russia accused of using it as a “human shield”

An Estonian-owned general cargo ship has sunk off the coast of Odessa in the Black Sea following an explosion on 3 March.

Posting on its official Telegram social media page on 3 March, the Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure stated that the Panama-flagged ship, M/V Helt , was hit by a Russian Navy missile and sank behind the 12 mile zone on the traverse of the south port of Odessa. All six crew members aboard the ship were saved during a rescue operation, it said.

This is understood to be the first confirmed sinking of a merchant ship in the war on Ukraine.

The news comes one day after the Armed Forces of Ukraine accused the Russian Black Sea Fleet of using civilian vessels – including Helt – as a human shield to obscure the movements of the Russian Navy.

Posting on its official Facebook page on 2 March, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that the Ukrainian Navy had closed shipping in the north-western region of the Black Sea to protect civilian navigation. “At the same time, the Russian Black Sea Fleet continues the tactics of the Russian land units in an attempt to cover themselves with civilian lives,” it stated.

On 2 March, prior to the vessel being sunk, Russian ships had forced Helt to enter a dangerous zone of the Black Sea so that the occupiers could cover themselves with a civilian vessel as a human shield, the armed forces statement said.

“This is nothing more than 21st century piracy,” it stated.

The Russian invasion has significantly impacted commercial shipping in the Black Sea region, with several ships having been either fired upon or detained.

Looking to read the full article?

Gain unlimited access to Janes news and more...