Russia says warning shots were fired at British destroyer in Black Sea
Russia’s defense ministry on Wednesday said that one of its warships had fired warning shots toward a British Royal Navy destroyer as it neared Crimea in the Black Sea, though the U.K. military quickly denied that its ship was targeted.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had “warned in advance that weapons would be used” if the U.K.’s HMS Defender entered into Russian-claimed waters around the country’s main naval base near Crimea, according to NBC News.
The Associated Press reported that the Russian military accused the British navy of ignoring the threat, prompting a Russian patrol ship to fire warning shots, with a Russian Su-24 bomber also dropping four bombs ahead of the British destroyer’s path.
The Russian defense ministry said that the British ship left Russian waters following the actions by its military, which marked the first time since the Cold War that Moscow has admitted using live ammunition to deter a NATO ship, the AP noted.
However, the British Ministry of Defense pushed back on Russia’s account of the Wednesday events, writing in a statement shared on Twitter, “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 U.K. defense agency added.
The statement went on to argue that “no shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path.”
“We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity,” the defense ministry added.
We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity.
No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path.
— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) June 23, 2021
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace further pushed back on Russia’s account of Wednesday’s events, noting in a statement that the U.K. destroyer “carried out a routine transit from Odessa towards Georgia across the Black Sea.”
“As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity,” he added, according to the AP.
Wallace also pushed back on the Russian statements while speaking to Parliament’s defense committee, saying, “These are the things that come and go with Russia.”
“Disinformation, misinformation is something that we have seen regularly,” he added, according to the AP. “We’re not surprised by it; we plan for it.”
The incident comes amid Russia’s escalating tensions with the U.S. and NATO allies, with the Biden administration and other international leaders accusing Russia of continued aggressive military actions near Crimea.
Russia in 2014 annexed Crimea, though this has been deemed an illegal move by many in the international community.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of organizing the 2014 overthrow of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which in part prompted the Russian annexation of Crimea.
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