By RFE RL
By Shelby Rayer
(RFE/RL) — The U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on July 25 repeated U.S. warnings that Russia could use sea mines to blow up a ship and blame the attack on Ukraine.
Ambassador Michael Carpenter said Russia would use such an incident — known as a false flag attack — to justify further attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea.
The Vienna-based OSCE said in a statement issued before Carpenter spoke at a briefing in Washington that its information indicates Russia laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports.
“We believe this is a coordinated effort by Russia to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and then blame Ukraine,” the OSCE said.
The U.S. State Department warned a day earlier that Russia might be preparing some “false flag” operation in relation to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was suspended last week after Russia said it would no longer participate in it because the terms of a parallel deal to help ship its grain and fertilizer were not being met.
“We’ve had information to suggest that they may be preparing a false flag operation — we believe they may be preparing a false flag operation,” spokesman Matthew Miller told a press briefing on July 24.
The OSCE, made up of 57 member countries, has played a key role in the documentation of war crimes through fact-finding missions and has provided support for civil society roles for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
Carpenter gave no indication what a U.S. response would be, though he suggested that an attack on a civilian ship could be considered a war crime.
When asked about future OSCE responses to Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the ambassador did not provide any details on plans other than “encouraging [the international community] to press Russia to come back to the deal.”
Carpenter indicated that he believed Russia’s withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was brokered last year by the UN and Turkey and allowed over 35 million tons of food to be shipped largely to developing countries in Asia and Africa, has prompted countries to reconsider their view of the war.
“I do believe across the wider world, there are many countries starting to understand with greater acuity…that this war of aggression against Ukraine [is] impacting them and it’s impacting their populations,” he said.
Carpenter went on to say that Russia is “making a killing off the artificially inflated food prices,” citing the country’s “record profits,” but he provided no details on the OSCE’s response.
The OSCE statement also refers to recent missile strikes on food storage facilities in Odesa, which have been hit hard since Russia’s withdrawal from the pact.
Carpenter noted that Russian strikes last week destroyed 60,000 tons of grain in Ukraine.
“Just yesterday they struck a grain storage facility on the Danube River near the borders of Moldova and Romania,” Carpenter said, condemning Russia’s weaponization of hunger as a “heartless, frankly cynical, effort to weaken Ukraine that is causing harm to millions of innocent civilians around the world.”