Russia Says It Fired Warning Shots at British Destroyer Near Crimea; UK Denies It

Russia Says It Fired Warning Shots at British Destroyer Near Crimea; UK Denies It
British Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender arrives for a port visit in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 9, 2021. (Yoruk Isik/File Photo/Reuters)

MOSCOW—Russia said on June 23 it 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 countered that no Russian warning shots were fired at the Royal Navy’s HMS Defender, which sailed into the Black Sea earlier this month, and it didn’t recognize claims that bombs had been dropped in the warship’s 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 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 defense ministry, quoted by Interfax news agency, said the British ship 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.

The Russian ministry claimed a Russian bomber dropped four high-explosive fragmentation bombs as a warning in the British destroyer’s path.