Russian claims that mines laid at Odesa are adrift in the Black Sea may be more a matter of complicating shipping and instilling fear and tension among sailors and coastal states rather than a real threat, Bulgarian Navy commander Rear Admiral Kiril Mihailov told a news conference on March 21.
The Bulgarian government issued a warning on the night of March 20 about the mines, which Russia says were laid by the Ukrainians and which, they say, came adrift because of a storm.
Mihailov said that Navy was taking all measures to strengthen the monitoring of the situation in the Black Sea.
The mines are said to be of two types.
One is a small anchor mine of about 20kg, with a 53cm diameter. It does not use a battery and can remain dangerous for a very long time.
The other is an anti-landing craft mine, weighing about three kg, with a 27.5cm diameter. Such a mine would not pose a serious danger to a large vessel, Mihailov said.
He said that the second type of mine was very unlikely to drift out to sea, and in the event of a storm, was more likely to end up on the shore where it had been laid.
Mihailov did not rule out the possibility of individual mines having broken away, but said that they would be subject to sea currents.
If, hypothetically, a mine broke away, by day 12 to 14 it would off Kalakria, on day 15 to 16 off Varna, by day 18 off Bourgas and on the 20th day would leave Bulgarian waters.
Given prevailing currents, the closest it would come would be one sea mile off Kalakria and one to three sea miles off Rezovo.
“I want to dispel fears that the mines will start rolling on to the beach and tourists will stumble into them,” he said.
At the beginning of Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine, notices were sent to seafarers about minefields in the north-western part of the Black Sea.
Since then, Bulgaria’s Navy has stepped up surveillance, including periodic flights over the Black Sea and the deployment of its ships.
Mihailov said that there was a case last week when a suspected mine was spotted. A Navy vessel with divers was sent, and the object turned out to be a damaged buoy.
He said that when it came to the type of mines described, it was better to detonate them on the spot rather than try to defuse them.
A few “historic” mines – dating from the wars of the previous century – emerge from the sea every year, Mihailov said.
This meant that dealing with mines was nothing new to the Navy, he said.