Environment Secretary George Eustice disputed Moscow’s claims that Russian warplanes dropped bombs and a patrol vessel fired warning shots at a British destroyer he said entered its territorial waters in black Sea.
“It’s a very normal thing,” Eustice told Sky News. “It’s quite common, in fact, what was actually happening is that the Russians were doing a shooting exercise and they had been informed about it beforehand, they often do it in this area. So I think it’s important that we don’t get carried away. “
Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine after military intervention in the region in 2014. The international community opposed this annexation and still considers Crimea to be Ukrainian territory.
But the Kremlin stepped up its war of words with Britain on Thursday, saying the warship carried out “deliberate and planned provocation.”
His remarks came after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia has the right to “bomb on target” when foreign ships violate its maritime borders, according to Russian state media TASS.
” 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, ”Ryabkov said, according to TASS.
Eustice insisted the vessel was making legal passage under international law to Georgia via Ukraine. When asked if the UK would sail again in disputed Ukrainian waters, he replied: “Yes… because we never agreed to annex Crimea”.
And British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied that the Muscovite version of Wednesday’s incident was “as might be expected”.
“No shots were fired at HMS Defender,” Raab told a press conference in Singapore after a three-day trade trip to Southeast Asia.
A BBC reporter on the ship said he saw Russian warplanes and warships buzzing around the destroyer during Wednesday’s blaze.
Russia said the ship had traveled three kilometers (1.9 miles) inside what it described as its territory off Cape Fiolent in Crimea just before noon on Wednesday. A nation’s territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from its coastline; any foreign warship exceeding this limit would need the country’s permission to do so, with a few exceptions.
Shortly after the British ship crossed the territorial border, a Su-24M attack plane dropped bombs and a coastal patrol vessel fired warning shots in front of the British destroyer, the Russian Ministry of Justice said. Defense in a report by Russian state media TASS.
But British officials rebuffed the Russian allegations and Eustice continued to play them down on Thursday.
Pressed on the reported attacks, he said: “I am told that is not what happened.
“I don’t think they were warning shots. There was a military exercise taking place, and it is not uncommon for the Russians to do it in this area, and therefore the incident is not particularly abnormal in that sense, ”he said. .
The British Ministry of Defense had previously denied Moscow’s accusation, saying the ship, HMS Defender, was making legal and innocent passage.
The UK ambassador to Moscow was due to visit the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday after being summoned over the incident, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on state television.
“We announced yesterday that the British Ambassador has been summoned. She will be at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today. It will be the subject of a difficult process, ”Zakharova said on Russia 24, according to TASS.
Zakharova previously said in a Telegram message on Wednesday that the UK was spreading lies about the incident involving the British Royal Navy.
“So who is lying: the British Ministry of Defense, the British BBC journalist or the British Embassy in Moscow?” There is an answer. This time – the British Ministry of Defense and the British Embassy… London has lost its manners. I advise the British partners will strike if they want to “enter peacefully” next time, “Zakharova wrote on Telegram.