Day 687: Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania sign deal to clear floating Black Sea mines

Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania sign deal to clear floating Black Sea mines. Ukraine’s GDP rose at more than a five per cent pace in 2023, the central bank says. Russia is likely preparing a possible false-flag operation against Moldova, ISW says. 

Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania sign deal to clear floating Black Sea mines

Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania on Thursday signed an agreement to jointly tackle drifting sea mines that have threatened Black Sea shipping since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler said the agreement establishes a Mine Countermeasures Task Group among the three NATO allies to deal with the mines.

“We jointly decided to sign a protocol between three countries in order to fight more effectively against the mine danger in the Black Sea by improving our existing close cooperation and coordination,” Guler said at a news conference in Istanbul with Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar and Bulgarian Deputy Defense Minister Atanas Zapryanov.

Guler suggested that other countries could participate in mine-clearing after the war ends.

The initiative aims to make shipping safer, including for vessels transporting grain from Ukraine.

The signing of the agreement will be followed by an operational planning process to develop detailed documents and instructions for the group’s actions in every respect. This process can take up to several months, Euractiv said, citing Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry.

Mines began floating in the Black Sea after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Romanian, Bulgarian and Turkish military diving teams have been defusing those drifting in their waters. In October, reports surfaced that Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are discussing the creation of a joint force to clear any mines that drift into their waters from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The move is not considered a NATO operation, but it marks the first joint action of Black Sea allies since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia likely preparing possible false-flag operation against Moldova, ISW says

Russia is likely setting information conditions for a possible false-flag operation against Moldova and is using actors in Transnistria to achieve that, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a recent report. 

The Kremlin may be instructing actors in the Russian-backed breakaway republic of Transnistria to set information conditions for a possible false-flag operation in Transnistria as part of wider Kremlin efforts to destabilize Moldova. The Transnistrian Ministry of State Security (MGB) issued a press release on January 10 claiming that an “incident” occurred on January 7 during which “two Transnistrian citizens were transferred to the territory of Ukraine” but that authorities are clarifying the circumstances of the “incident.” [The Ukrainian Border Guard Service said they were unaware of the “incident,” according to The New Voice of Ukraine.] The MGB is a Russian-dominated organization that is commonly understood to be a “department of the Russian FSB (Federal Security Service)” that likely takes orders directly from Moscow. Kremlin newswire TASS published an interview with Transnistrian President Vadim Krasnoselsky on January 9 wherein he claimed that Moldova’s “militarization” threatens Transnistria, blamed Moldova for halting negotiations with Transnistria, and emphasized Transnistria’s “extensive” cooperation agreements with Russia. Krasnoselsky’s interview was likely part of efforts to set information conditions aimed at destabilizing Moldova and justifying any future Russian campaigns in the region.

The Kremlin may attempt to use false flag operations in Transnistria as an effort to claim that Russia must protect ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) stated on January 10 that it summoned the Moldovan Ambassador to Russia to protest Moldova’s “unfriendly actions,” including the “politically motivated persecution of Russian and Russian-language media” and “cases of discrimination against Russian citizens entering Moldova.” The Russian MFA threateningly stated that if such actions continue, “the Russian side reserves the right to take additional retaliatory measures.” 

The Russian MFA also claimed that there are media reports that Moldova plans to assist NATO in training Ukrainian forces on Moldovan territory, which would amount to Moldova’s “direct involvement” in hostilities on the side of Ukraine. Kremlin officials have recently intensified references to “compatriots abroad” and the “Russian World” (Russkiy Mir), concepts that Russia often uses to justify its right to defend ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers beyond its borders. Russia notably used similar justifications when it militarily intervened on behalf of separatist Transnistria in 1992, the report reads.

Ukraine’s GDP rose at more than five per cent pace in 2023, central bank says

Ukraine’s 2023 gross domestic product likely rose at a more than five per cent rate, up from 4.9 per cent that the National Bank said it expected in October, Deputy Head of the National Bank, Serhiy Nikolaychuk said in an interview with Interfax Ukraine. 

He said 2023 forecasts of GDP and inflation improved quarterly.

“It is quite an unusual situation. Normally, as economic forecasts improve and economic activity rises, there is a bigger pressure on prices and the rise of inflation. At the same time, there were demand shocks, positive ones,” Nikolaychuk said.

A good harvest of grain, vegetables and fruit had a positive effect on the GDP and inflation, he said.

“In the beginning of the year, grain forecast was at 45.6 million tons. We are at almost 60 now. Ukrainian agricultural industry’s ability to adapt [to war-time challenges], logistical routes and favorable weather conditions played their part,” Nikolaychuk said.

Access to electricity had a positive effect on both economic activity and inflation. The central bank forecast international assistance at USD 38.6 billion, while it actually amounted to USD 43 billion at the end of the year, allowing to cover a larger portion of the budget deficit.

Domestic borrowing has been bigger than predicted, Nikolaychuk said.

Kyivstar hack – why did the Russians attack the communication system? Ukraine in Flames #558

This episode of Ukraine in Flames features discussions by cybersecurity experts about recent cyber attacks on Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest mobile provider. Our guest experts highlight a major disruption caused by a Russian-affiliated hacker group, which resulted in the shutdown of Kyivstar, impacting 24 million users by also disrupting air raid notifications, which are critical for the country as Russia continues its barbaric missile attacks. We also look at the vulnerabilities found in Ukraine’s national defense systems, the importance of diversifying communication services, and the human factor in cybersecurity attacks, emphasizing the need for resilience and preparedness in a war-torn country. Take a watch of UIF #558 to find out more.


  • Roman Osadchuk, Research Associate at DFRLab
  • Dmytro Antoniuk, Director of Sana Commerce, Valantic and Easygenerator in Ukraine