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U.S. says Russia is laying the groundwork to attack civilian ships and blame Ukraine

The TQ Samsun bulk carrier transits the Bosphorus Strait during the early morning hours on Tuesday in Istanbul. The TQ Samsun is the last grain ship, carrying corn and rapeseed, to leave Ukraine under the Black Sea grain initiative.
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The TQ Samsun bulk carrier transits the Bosphorus Strait during the early morning hours on Tuesday in Istanbul. The TQ Samsun is the last grain ship, carrying corn and rapeseed, to leave Ukraine under the Black Sea grain initiative.

The National Security Council says that Russia is attempting a "false flag operation" to "justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and to then blame them on Ukraine."

The declaration comes days after Russia backed out of a deal that helped move grain from Ukrainian ports, threatening global food supply.

NSC spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in a briefing Thursday afternoon that Russia may try to expand its targets in the Black Sea to attacks on civilian ships that are transporting grain and food.

"Russia has already announced publicly that all ships proceeding to Ukrainian ports in Black Sea waters will be considered potential carriers of military cargo, even though they are simply trying to pick up grain and food to be able to feed people around the world," Kirby said.

Kirby said Russia is falsely trying to blame Ukraine for sea mines that Russia itself planted, releasing a video of a detonation it claimed was from a Ukrainian mine.

Kirby said the U.S. found it important to declassify and publicly share the information to warn that the Black Sea waters "are now more dangerous than they were before for civilian shipping and that's because of one party and one party only: and that's Russia."

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. also announced additional sanctions against Russia to further limit its military capabilities.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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