Putin says US reconnaissance aircraft was involved in warning shot incident with UK
Russian President Vladimir Putin is claiming that a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was present along with a British Royal Navy destroyer during the Black Sea incident last week when Russia said it fired warning shots as the British ship traveled in disputed waters near Crimea.
During a live call-in show Wednesday, Putin said the incident was a “provocation” to test Moscow, adding that the U.S. aircraft was there to apparently monitor Russia’s response to the presence of the British ship, according to The Associated Press.
Last Wednesday, Russia’s defense ministry said that it had “warned in advance that weapons would be used” if the United Kingdom’s HMS Defender entered into Russian-claimed waters, adding that it fired warning shots to ward off the ship around Russia’s main naval base near Crimea.
However, the U.K. quickly denied the Russian account, saying that it was traveling in Ukrainian waters.
While Russia claims Crimea and its surrounding waters as its own since its 2014 annexation, the U.K., the U.S. and much of the international community still consider Crimea as part of Ukraine.
The AP reported that Putin on Wednesday expressed doubt when asked if last week’s incident could have sparked war, arguing that the Western countries would not have been able to come out as the winners, even if Russia had sunk the U.K. ship.
In response to Putin’s remarks, Wendy L. Snyder, the head of public affairs at the U.S. Navy’s European Command, said in a statement to The Hill that while the U.S. “did have aircraft in operations” in the Black Sea region, “the claims by Russia about any incident are false” and represent “disinformation.”
“We routinely operate in the Black Sea with Allies and partners, and we are committed to our transparency in doing so,” Snyder added. “A great example is our exercise Sea Breeze taking place right now with more than 30 nations. All part of our ongoing continued support to security and stability in the region.”
A day after Russia said it had fired warning shots, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the country would bomb British vessels should they enter the disputed waters in the Black Sea again.
“We can appeal to common sense, demand respect for international law, and if that doesn’t work, we can bomb,” Ryabkov told Russian media, according to Reuters.
On Friday, the Russian military launched drills in the Mediterranean Sea amid the tensions with the U.K.
The drills, which included two MiG-31 fighter jets that can carry hypersonic missiles going after targets from a Russian airbase in Syria, began as a British carrier strike group was present in the area.
This story was updated on July 1 at 2:17 p.m.