Russia considers the incident with a UK navy destroyer in the Black Sea as a gross provocation, and the Russian Foreign Ministry intends to summon the UK ambassador, the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Wednesday.
“We qualify this as a gross British provocation that runs counter to international law and Russian legislation. I would also like to inform you that the British ambassador will be summoned to the Foreign Ministry of our country,” Zakharova said during a briefing.
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said warning shots were fired and a Su-24 dropped bombs after UK Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Defender, had allegedly sailed 3km into Russia’s territorial waters.
Moscow said that a Russian Su-24 bomber dropped four bombs in the path of the British vessel forcing it to change its course. Subsequently, the British warship retreated, the ministry said. UK’s defense attache has also been summoned by the Russian Ministry of Defense in Moscow.
These claims were, however, denied by Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD). It also added that the ship was sailing in Ukrainian waters. Ben Wallace, British Defense Secretary, said in a statement that HMS Defender was conducting a “routine transit” from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea and had entered the internationally recognized traffic corridor.
“As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity”, Wallace was quoted as saying by BBC.
According to MoD, Russia was carrying out a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and had a issued prior warning of their activity. “No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognize the claim that bombs were dropped in her path”, it added.
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.
— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) June 23, 2021
Russia said that the incident happened near Cape Fiolent in the south of Crimea. This was the first time since the Cold War that Russia admitted to using live ammunition to force a NATO warship retreat indicating a growing risk of military incidents amid rising tensions between Russia and the West, ABC News said.
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Ukrainian military and the Moscow-backed Donbas separatists have been fighting, resulting in the death of 13,000 people, according to UN estimates.
Talking about the latest incident, Mark Gray, a maritime security specialist and a retired colonel with Britain’s Royal Marines told news agency Reuters, “This was done to test Russian resolve over Crimea.”
HMS Defender is a Type 45 destroyer that is part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group and is currently heading towards the Indo-Pacific region. However, earlier this month, it was announced that the British warship will be carrying out missions in the Black Sea, according to a statement by the Royal Navy.
Earlier this month, US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer, USS Laboon, entered the Black Sea. The Russian Navy’s Black Sea forces then started tracking the US warship.
Days later, two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers flew over the Baltic region only to be intercepted by NATO fighters — Italian Air Force F-35As, Royal Danish Air Force F-16s, and Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripens.
Written by Kashish Tandon