Russian Federation says it fired warning shots at British warship

Brunilde Fioravanti
Giugno 23, 2021

A Russian warship and jet interceptor fired warning shots and dropped bombs across the path of a British warship on Wednesday afternoon, according to claims from a Moscow-based news agency.

The firing of warning shots and dropping of bombs would have marked the first time since the Cold War Moscow had used live ammunition to deter a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation warship, reflecting growing risks of military incidents amid soaring Russia-West tensions.

Along with the naval manoeuvres, a Russian Su-24M attack aircraft carried out a mock bombing run against the British warship, according to the ministry.

"The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with global law".

The Russian Defence Ministry has summoned the attache on defence matters from the British Embassy in Moscow over the incident.

The MOD insisting HMS Defender was in Ukranian water may be seen as a tacit denial they ever entered Russian waters, as Moscow claimed.

The HMS Defender "did not respond to a warning" about the use of weapons in response to its movements, the Defense Ministry was quoted as saying.

The HMS Defender's automatic identification system (AIS) signal showed the ship to be situated about 40 km off Crimea as of 14:15 local time Wednesday, and to be sailing southeast.

Russian Federation annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 but this has not been recognised internationally.

The U.S. Naval Institute's news website had reported Monday that HMS Defender's and another North Atlantic Treaty Organisation warship's open-source intelligence data was faked to make it appear as if they sailed directly to the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. In April, it declared a broader sea area off Crimea closed to foreign naval ships.

"We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity", it added.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace described the British ship's route as a "routine transit" from Odessa towards Georgia across the Black Sea. Wallace echoed the Defence Ministry's claims that the British ship was informed of Russian "training exercises in her wider vicinity".

"We saw the reports this morning", said Max Blain, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The British destroyer left the waters off the coast of Cape Fiolent minutes after the shots were fired, it said.

The Royal Navy said earlier this month that the HMS Defender had "peeled away" from its strike group conducting North Atlantic Treaty Organisation operations in the Mediterranean to carry out "her own set of missions" in the Black Sea.

Earlier in the day, Moscow urged the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to stop military operations in the Black Sea region, calling instead for "multilateral efforts" aimed at maintaining stability, and for states in the region to resolve problems without unwanted "help" from outside powers. Warships from the US, United Kingdom and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies also have made increasingly frequent visits in a show of support for Ukraine.

Speaking just before the incident, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, sharply criticized the deployment of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation warships near Russian waters.

"The moves by warships of the USA and its allies have been clearly provocative", Gerasimov said at an global security conference in Moscow organized by the Defense Ministry.

"It creates preconditions for incidents and doesn't help ease tensions in the military sphere".

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