Minehunter vessels, along with maritime patrol aircraft, constantly monitor waterways near the Turkish coasts in the Black Sea region to detect and neutralise drifting mines.
Türkiye has found and safely disposed of a sea mine off the Black Sea coast, the National Defense Ministry said.
The area was secured immediately after the mine was spotted by patrol aircraft off Kocaeli, and underwater explosive ordnance disposal units successfully neutralised it, the ministry tweeted on Wednesday.
This is the third sea mine discovered by Turkish authorities since the beginning of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, with the first detected off the northern coast of Igneada near the Bulgarian maritime border and the second spotted at the entrance to the Bosporus in March.
Where are they from?
Several hundred mines have drifted into the Black Sea after breaking off from cables near Ukrainian ports, according to Russia's main intelligence agency.
"Due to storm weather, the cables connecting the mines to anchors were broken," Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a press release dated March 19. "Due to wind and water currents, the mines are drifting freely in the western part of the Black Sea."
Viktor Vyshnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s state-run Maritime Administration, said "This is complete disinformation from the Russian side," adding, "This was done to justify the closure of these districts of the Black Sea under so-called 'danger of mines.'"
The Ukrainian navy said it alone had the right to distribute safety notices about its part of the Black Sea and cast Moscow's warning as an attempt at information "piracy."
Ukraine's foreign ministry said that Russia was planting naval mines in the Black Sea as "uncontrolled drifting ammunition," turning them "into a de facto weapon of indiscriminate action."
Some observers have said the mines drifted from a Ukrainian sea blockade, but that has not been verified.
Turkish authorities have temporarily closed the Bosphorus to ship traffic after a "mine-like object" was detected in the strait by a commercial vessel.— TRT World (@trtworld) March 26, 2022
It comes days after Russia warned that Ukraine had deployed several mines in the Black Sea against its "military operation" pic.twitter.com/Ohh0ZMlrl6
420 naval mines
The FSB said around 420 mines had broken loose, claiming that the mines were set by Ukrainian forces.
Russian reports said that these mines were made during the Soviet era in the first half of the 20th Century, adding that Ukraine planted these mines at the beginning of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The types of mines are “YM” weighing 17kg and “YRM” weighing 30kg, both can be placed one or two metres below the surface of the sea. The mine can explode once it is touched.
Experts urged that all Black Sea countries should cooperate in the search operation to detect all drifting mines which could threaten international navigation.
The Samsun NAVTEX station of the Turkish Naval Forces’ office of navigation issued a statement on March 21 warning ships in the Black Sea against the mines.
The station requested that ships in the vicinity immediately report any detection of drifted mines or mine-like objects to the Turkish main search and rescue coordination centre and the Turkish Naval Forces.
Deniz Kuvvetlerimize bağlı yüzer ve uçar unsurlarımız, Batı Karadeniz’de (İstanbul Boğazı yaklaşma sularında) mayın arama faaliyeti kapsamında keşif ve gözetleme görevine devam ediyor.#MSB pic.twitter.com/etLSJnbUW9— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) March 29, 2022
Detecting stray mines
Türkiye is one of the countries among NATO members most prepared for such mines; its naval army has 11 minesweepers always ready to act. However, naval teams may face difficulty in detecting these mines due to weather conditions.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar earlier said that minehunter vessels, along with maritime patrol aircraft, are constantly monitoring waterways near the Turkish coasts in the Black Sea region to detect and neutralise drifting mines.
Akar also said both the Russian and Ukrainian sides had been notified and that coordination is ongoing.
The Black Sea is a major shipping route for grain, oil and oil products. It links to the Marmara and the Mediterranean seas via the Bosphorus strait, which runs through the heart of Istanbul, Türkiye’s largest city with 16 million residents.