United Kingdom denies Russian Federation fired warning shots at destroyer in Black Sea

Ross Houston
June 23, 2021

The UK has denied claims by Russia's defence ministry that Russian forces fired shots at a Royal Navy destroyer in the Black Sea.

Russia's defence ministry, quoted by Interfax news agency, said the British ship had left Russian waters soon after the incident, having ventured as much as three kilometres inside.

Crimea was incorporated into Russian Federation in March 2014 following a local referendum, but Ukraine says the peninsula was annexed, and Western countries insist that the peninsula was illegally annexed.

"It did not react to the warning", said a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry.

A Russian bomber dropped four high explosive fragmentation bombs as a warning in the British destroyer's path, according to the Russian ministry.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria all are on the Black Sea but warships from the US, UK and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies also have made increasingly frequent visits in a show of support to Ukraine.

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.

Sergei Tsekov, a senator for the legislature of Crimea, called the British warship's movements "a flagrant violation of global norms and standards", warning that it could "provoke a serious conflict", according to state media.

HMS Defender is a Type 45 destroyer that is part of the UK's Carrier Strike Group.

The exercises, it said, are created to underline allies' commitment to preserving the freedom of navigation and reassure Ukraine, Georgia and Romania of its support in the region.

Relations continued to decline following Russia's annexation of Crimea, with further incidents including its intervention in Syria 2015 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 and 2020 USA elections.

Rob Lee, a doctoral student who follows Russian deployments at King's College London's war studies department, told The Moscow Times that Russia's use of warning shots on a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation vessel would mark a "new" development.

"Nato.is something that was born in the Cold War area", he said. I'm not sure why it still continues to exist. Now it has been kind of forgotten.

"We aren't striving for a decisive, unilateral military advantage to tip the balance of forces in our favor", Putin said. It is an ally of the United States.

Vladimir Putin at his meeting with Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland, on 16 June.

Aides said Biden wanted to send a message that Putin was isolating himself on the global stage with his actions, ranging from election interference and cyber-attacks against Western nations to his treatment of domestic critics.

In a speech at the same conference before Wednesday's incident, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said "the situation in Europe is explosive", and accused North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of stonewalling Russian proposals to enhance security by refraining from military exercises near the borders of Russia and alliance members. "They are being squeezed by China", he said.

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