The Russian president claimed that the HMS Defender, a Type 45 destroyer, entered his country’s territorial waters illegally near Crimea in order to observe in detail how Russian forces would react.
He accused the British warship of operating in synchronization with an American spy plane to monitor Russia’s military response.
“It was a provocation, of course,” Putin said during a live question-and-answer marathon broadcast on state television.
“Even if we had sunk the British destroyer near Crimea, it is unlikely that the world would have been on the brink of World War III. “
Mr Putin claimed that HMS Defender had cooperated with a US reconnaissance plane, which he said took off from a NATO base in Crete, Greece, on the same day.
“It was clear that the destroyer (entered our waters) first to pursue military objectives, attempting with the help of the reconnaissance plane to reveal the actions of our military to stop such provocations,” said the Russian president.
Mr Putin added that there was a “political component” to the incident, which occurred shortly after his meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland.
“You have to wonder why it was necessary to make such a provocation,” he said.
“Why is all this being done?” In order to emphasize that these people do not respect the choice of the Crimeans to join the Russian Federation. “
The UK, like most of the rest of the world, considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine despite its annexation by Russia in 2014.
The UK has rejected Moscow’s claims that warning shots were fired at the Royal Navy destroyer and bombs dropped in the way of the warship.
The Defense Ministry said that HMS Defender “was making an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law”.
Mr. Putin also took advantage of the question-and-answer session to suggest that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had “ceded his country to full external control”.
He said: “Vital issues for Ukraine are not resolved in Kiev, but in Washington and partly in Berlin and Paris.
“What is there to discuss? I’m not refusing (to meet him), I just need to figure out what to talk about. ”