A Russian warship fired warning shots at a cargo vessel heading towards the Ukrainian port of Izmail, the country’s defense ministry said on Sunday.

Moscow said the Vasily Bykov patrol ship spotted a cargo vessel sailing under the flag of Palau “en route to the Ukrainian port of Izmail.”

The captain of the Sukru Okan cargo ship did not respond to demands to stop for "the inspection for the transportation of prohibited goods."

“To force the ship to stop, warning shots from automatic small arms were fired from a Russian warship,” the ministry said.

A helicopter carrying Russian military personnel was then scrambled to inspect the vessel, the statement said.

After the inspection was completed, the Sukru Okan was allowed to continue its journey.

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On Thursday, Ukraine initiated the opening of corridors for civilian merchant ships operating in the Black Sea, although military authorities cautioned about potential threats posed by Russia.

Since pulling out of the landmark Black Sea grain export deal in July, Russia has intensified attacks on facilities vital for Ukrainian grain shipments. 

The deal had allowed around 33 million tons of grain to safely leave Ukrainian ports, easing fears of global food shortages.

With the Black Sea route effectively blocked, the formerly obscure Ukrainian ports of Izmail and Reni on the Danube have become crucial to the exports.

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