Russia says it moved to deter a British destroyer, but the UK challenges the claim, saying it was conducting ‘innocent passage’ through Ukrainian waters.
Russia says its forces fired warning shots and dropped bombs to deter a British Royal Navy destroyer, accusing the ship of entering its waters in the Black Sea on Wednesday, a claim denied by the United Kingdom.
According to the Russian defence ministry, HMS Defender “was given a preliminary warning that weapons would be used if the state borders of the Russian Federation were violated. It did not react to the warning”.
The incident took place off the coast of Cape Fiolent on Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014; the Defender had ventured as much as 3km (2 miles) inside, the ministry said.
A border patrol ship fired the warning shots while an SU-24 jet dropped four bombs in HMS Defender’s path, prompting the British vessel to turn around, the ministry said.
But the UK Ministry of Defence denied Russia’s account, saying: “No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender. The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”
The British defence attache in Moscow has been summoned regarding the incident, Russia’s TASS reported.
Incidents involving aircraft or ships are not uncommon at Russia’s borders, especially during heightened tensions with the West, but rarely result in open fire.
The Royal Navy said earlier in June that the HMS Defender had “peeled away” from its strike group conducting NATO operations in the Mediterranean to carry out “her own set of missions” in the Black Sea.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday that Russia’s action demonstrated Moscow’s aggressive and provocative policy that constituted a threat to Ukraine and its allies.
“A clear proof of Ukraine’s position: Russia’s aggressive and provocative actions in the Black and Azov seas, its occupation & militarisation of Crimea pose a lasting threat to Ukraine and allies,” Kuleba said on Twitter.
“We need a new quality of cooperation between Ukraine & NATO allies in the Black Sea,” he added.