Turkey briefly stops traffic in Bosphorus Strait to defuse mine

The strait is opened after a stray mine has been removed from the key waterway linking the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

A Turkish Navy helicopter flies over a coast guard boat in Istanbul
A Turkish Navy helicopter flies over a coastguard boat in the northern entrance of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, March 26 [Yoruk isik/Reuters]

Turkey’s military has deactivated a mine that had drifted in from the Black Sea, setting off a loud explosion in the process, days after Russia warned several of them had washed away from Ukrainian ports.

On Saturday, defence minister Hulusi Akar described the object, first discovered by fishermen in the upper Bosphorus strait, as an old type of mine and said he was in touch with both Russian and Ukrainian authorities about it.

The explosion was heard north of Istanbul, an area where naval vessels and military planes and helicopters were active.

“The mine, determined to be an old type, was neutralised by our team…and naval forces continue their vigilant work,” Akar said in a televised statement.

Brief halt in traffic

Maritime traffic has safely been opened after coordination with the Turkish coastguard and naval forces, the minister added.

Earlier on Saturday, the coastguard said two-way ship traffic had been suspended after a civilian commercial vessel detected a mine-like object.

The coastguard had warned vessels to stay away from the round object bobbing on the waves, and a dive team initially moved in to investigate.

Turkey shares Black Sea borders with Russia and Ukraine, which Moscow invaded last month.

Russia’s main intelligence agency said on Monday that several mines had drifted out to sea after breaking off from cables near Ukrainian ports, a claim dismissed by Kyiv as disinformation and an attempt to close off parts of the sea.

Commenting on rumours that underwater mines laid by Ukraine to deter Russian attacks in the ongoing war might drift across the Black Sea, Akar said both the Russian and Ukrainian sides had been notified and that coordination is ongoing.

The Black Sea is a major shipping artery for grain and oil products. It is connected to the Marmara and then Mediterranean seas via the Bosphorus, which runs through the heart of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city with 16 million residents, and the Dardanelles Strait in the northwest of Turkey.

Source: News Agencies