Sanctioned Russian Ships Make Over 100 Stops At Turkish Ports, US-Turkey Relations Strained

Russia cargo vessels under U.S. sanctions for shipping weapons and other supplies have been regularly stopping at Turkish ports since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, most likely bolstering its military campaign, per a report by the Wall Street Journal or WSJ.

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This exclusive report cited shipping records and stated that these sanctioned Russian ships had made more than 100 stops at Turkish ports since May 2022 and that these visits still continue.

Some of these vessels underwent repairs and maintenance or received services barred under U.S. sanctions. This has raised the probability that Washington might also impose restrictions on certain Turkish businesses for aiding Russia and affecting the Western efforts to limit Russia’s military support.

An official from the U.S. Treasury Department said, “Russia is making every attempt to surreptitiously acquire material to supply its war efforts.”

The WSJ also stated that the extent to which sanctioned Russian ships relied on ports along the Turkish coast had not been reported until now.

The United States has pressurised nations, including Turkey, to aid in severing Russia’s military supply network so that Russia is deprived of arms and munitions to continue its invasion of Ukraine. However, the Turkish President used this conflict to increase Turkish influence in the Black Sea by expanding trade with Russia.

He even facilitated an agreement for transporting Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea and offered to facilitate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

These developments could strain Turkey-US relations, especially when the U.S. seeks Turkish approval for Sweden’s membership in NATO. According to a WSJ report, this request might be connected to a proposed $20 billion sale of new F-16 warplanes to Turkey.

Alper Coşkun, former director for international security affairs at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said, “Because of the rapport between Erdogan and Putin and the posture Turkey’s taking on Russia, Turkey doesn’t want to be seen to be very hard-nosed about these sanctions against Russia.”

The report mentioned that sanctioned Russian vessels stopped at two dozen ports along the Turkish black sea coast, the Mediterranean and the Sea of Marmara coasts.

Some ships made journeys to Egypt, Iran and also Syria. However, neither the Russian nor Turkish governments have responded to requests by WSJ for a comment about these port calls.

The WSJ report states Russia has procured items from Turkey to fuel its military, like steel, vehicle parts and electronics, since the Ukraine invasion began.

Moscow has cleverly relied on civilian cargo vessels for transporting its military necessities, thus surpassing a ban imposed by Turkey on Russian and Ukrainian warships from entering the Black Sea, per an international treaty that governs the Turkish Straits.

Also, Iraq, Jordon and Turkey put restrictions on Russian military flights, thus reducing its ability to transport equipment and troops to and from its bases in Syria.

The report stated that using civilian ships for transporting military supplies has become common, and the U.S. State and Treasury Departments have identified and sanctioned these companies.

Although a few businesses and agencies in Turkey have succumbed to the pressure from Washington to prevent Russia from evading sanctions, at least four sanctioned Russian vessels have visited Turkish ports since Erdogan’s re-election, per the WSJ report.

References: WSJ, turkishminute

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