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Russia says intercepted another cargo ship over traces of explosives

The file photo shows BMO River cargo ship.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) says it found traces of explosives on board a civilian vessel en route from Turkey to a Russian port over suspected involvement in smuggling arms to Ukraine.

In a statement on its website on Thursday, the FSB said the BMO River cargo ship, which had been traveling between the Turkish port of Sinop and Russia's Rostov-on-Don, had been ordered to leave Russian waters on Wednesday following the detection of traces of explosives.

"The foreign ship may have been used earlier to transport explosive substances to Ukraine" based on the test results and its record of visiting the Ukrainian port of Reni in June and July, the FSB said.

It added that the transport link had been attacked twice in the past year over what it called "Ukrainian terrorist attacks."

The suspicious compounds were identified as the explosive trinitrotoluene (TNT) and dinitro (DNT), which is used in TNT production.

The FSB said on Monday that it had found traces of explosives on another ship traveling from Turkey to Rostov-on-Don. The agency similarly claimed that the vessel may have been previously involved in smuggling weapons to Ukraine.

In a statement last week, Russia warned that all ships traveling to Ukraine are considered to be potentially carrying weapons and military equipment, and thus be part of the current war in the ex-Soviet republic.

Russia's defense ministry said from July 20 on, it would deem all Ukraine-bound vessels to be potentially carrying arms on behalf of Kiev, and consequently "the flag countries of such ships will be considered parties to the Ukrainian conflict."

Russia previously granted some civilian ships safe passage to Ukraine under the Black Sea grain deal, which was officially known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative and was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations on July 22, 2022. The deal had allowed three Ukrainian ports to export some 32.9 million metric tons of grain and other food to the world, over half of that to developing countries.

However, Russia last week announced its withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal that allowed Ukraine to ship food from its southern ports despite the war.

The withdrawal from the deal came with a separate agreement to facilitate shipments of Russian food and fertilizer. Moscow says no facilitation under that agreement has yet taken place. The Kremlin had initially threatened to abandon the deal if its concerns were not addressed.

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