Russia said on Wednesday it fired warning shots and dropped bombs on the way to HMS Defender as it sailed off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula, accusing the Royal Navy destroyer of violating its territorial waters .
The UK disputed Russia’s account, saying no warning shots were fired and no bomb dropped, but suggested that a Russian artillery exercise had taken place in the region.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday denounced Moscow’s claims.
“No shots were fired at HMS Defender,” Raab told reporters in Singapore, during a visit to discuss trade deals.
“The Royal Navy ship was making an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters. We were doing it in accordance with international law and the Russian characterization is predictably inaccurate. “
“Innocent passage” is an internationally recognized right for ships to navigate in a country’s territorial waters, provided they do not mean any harm.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Moscow considers the areas around the coast of the Crimean Peninsula to be Russian waters, but Western countries consider Crimea to be part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the seas surrounding it.
In comments broadcast on state television, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the UK of lying about its account of the events.
Zakharova said the UK ambassador would be summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday for the episode, which the Kremlin called a “provocation.”
“We can bomb”
Russia said HMS Defender ventured up to three kilometers (two miles) into Russian waters near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on the southern coast of Crimea near the port of Sevastopol, the seat of the Russian Navy fleet on the Black Sea.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a border patrol ship fired warning shots and a Su-24 aircraft dropped four bombs in the path of HMS Defender, prompting the ship to turn around – claims refuted by the UK Ministry of Defense.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister warned on Thursday that Moscow “will always stand guard” over its borders and have the right to “bomb” in cases where they are ignored.
” What can we do? We can use common sense, demand respect for international law. If that doesn’t help, we can bomb not only in the direction, but also on the target, if our colleagues do not understand, ”said Sergei Ryabkov, quoted by the Russian Tass news agency.
“I warn all those who violate the state borders of the Russian Federation under the slogan of free navigation, such provocative measures, because the security of our country comes first. “
“The territorial integrity of the Russian Federation is inviolable. The inviolability of its borders is an absolute imperative, we will watch over all this by diplomatic, political and, if necessary, military means.
Russia released filmed footage of a Russian Su-24 bomber flying near HMS Defender on Thursday.
Britain’s BBC News, whose reporter Jonathan Beale was on deck during the incident, broadcast footage of the British ship showing a Russian officer warning that he would shoot if he did not change course.
After the Russian radio warning, Beale said: “Shots are being fired, but they are well out of range.”