The Western statements about Russia blocking foreign ships in the Black and Azov seas are unfounded, as Moscow opens humanitarian corridors every day, but the Ukrainian authorities refuse to cooperate, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday.
"As for the statements made the day before by official representatives of foreign states about the 'blocking' by the Russian military of foreign vessels in the waters of the Black and Azov seas, they are not consistent with reality. The port in Mariupol has resumed work after the military of Russia and the DPR gained control over it, so the navigating channel was unblocked, and the conditions were created for the ships to leave," Zakharova said.
According to the spokesperson, the Russian armed forces open two maritime humanitarian corridors daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Moscow time (05:00 to 16:00 GMT), but the Ukrainian authorities "refuse to interact with representatives of foreign states and shipowner companies to ensure the safe exit of the blocked ships, practically holding the crews hostage."
On Thursday, the head of the Russian National Defence Control Center, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, said that foreign shipowners had ignored opportunities provided by Russia to safely withdraw their vessels from the port of Mariupol, and called on the diplomatic missions of Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, Liberia, Panama, Turkey, Jamaica and the International Maritime Organization to influence the shipowners.
According to the defence official, the danger of mines in the waters of the Mariupol port has been eliminated and the harbour can be safely used by civilian ships, and a 139 nautical miles long and 3 miles wide naval humanitarian corridor from other Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea will be open daily starting 27 May, with the Ukrainian side being responsible for ensuring the safety of ships leaving the ports.
On Tuesday, the Russian Defence Ministry said that the minesweepers finished clearing the Mariupol port of mines and freed the routes from sunken ships and other navigational hazards. Works to recover port infrastructure are currently underway. On Wednesday, Zakharova said that five foreign vessels were able to leave after the demining.