Russia says it fires warning shots at British destroyer near Crimea, UK denies it

by Reuters
Wednesday, 23 June 2021 12:26 GMT

(Adds British defence ministry response, Ukrainian foreign minister)

MOSCOW, June 23 (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of a British destroyer sailing in the Black Sea off the coast of the Crimea peninsula, which Russia seized and annexed from Ukraine.

Britain's Ministry of Defence said no Russian warning shots were fired at the Royal Navy's HMS Defender, which sailed into the Black Sea earlier this month, and it did not recognise assertions that bombs were put in its 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 defence ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the incident showed that Russia's "aggressive and provocative policies" in the Black Sea and nearby Azov Sea constituted a "continuous threat to Ukraine and its allies". In a tweet, he called for NATO to cooperate with Ukraine in the Black Sea.

Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and considers areas around the peninsula's coast to be Russian waters. Western countries consider the peninsula part of Ukraine and reject Russia's claim to the seas around it.

Russia's defence ministry, quoted by Interfax news agency, said the British ship had left Russian waters soon after the incident, having ventured as much as 3 kilometers (2 miles) inside. It said the confrontation occurred near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on the southern coast of Crimea near the port of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy's Black Sea fleet.

"The destroyer had been warned that weapons would be used if it trespasses the border of the Russian Federation. It did not react to the warning," it said.

A Russian bomber dropped four high explosive fragmentation bombs as a warning in the British destroyer's path, according to the Russian ministry. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov and Pavel Polityuk Writing by Olzhas Auyezov and Peter Graff Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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