Russian Military Fires Warning Shots at British Ship in Federation Waters in Black Sea
June 23 , 2021 (EIRNS)—The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement this morning announcing that a Russian warship fired warning shots at the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender, which it said had violated Russia’s maritime border around Crimea in the Black Sea. “At 11:52 am on 23 June, the HMS Defender of the British Royal Navy, operating in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, violated the border and entered 3 km into Russian territorial waters in the region of Cape Fiolent,” the ministry statement said, reported Sputnik International. The statement further said that warnings had been issued to the British ship but were ignored.
“At 12:06 and 12:08, a border patrol vessel carried out warning shots. At 12:19 a Su-24M carried out a warning bombing run using 4 OFAB-250 [high-explosive fragmentation] bombs at the HMS Defender’s path of movement,” the statement added. “At 12:23 the combined actions of the Black Sea Fleet and the Border Forces of the FSB forced the HMS Defender to leave the territorial waters of the Russian Federation.”
The British Ministry of Defense not only denied that there were any warning shots fired at the HMS Defender but denied that there was any incident at all. “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 MOD press office said on Twitter. “No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognize the claim that bombs were dropped in her path.”
The MOD insisted that “The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law,” on its way from Odessa to Georgia. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman elaborated: “As you know, the U.K. does not recognize Russia’s claim to Crimea.”
Sputnik reported that the Defender’s automatic identification system signal showed the ship to be situated about 40 km off Crimea as of 14:15 local time on June 23, and to be sailing southeast. The Russian Defense Ministry has summoned the attaché on Defense Matters from the British Embassy in Moscow over the incident.
Not mentioned in the press coverage, is that a U.S. Air Force RC-135V reconnaissance aircraft was flying over the Black Sea and was off the west coast of Crimea at the time the Russians report they were firing warning shots at the HMS Defender. The U.S. aircraft was visible on flight tracking websites such as Flightradar24. Its presence raises the question of whether the Defender was engaged in deliberate provocation so that the RC-135 could collect signals intelligence generated by the Russian response to the Defender’s presence.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed in a Twitter posting that the incident is “proof” of the threat that Russia supposedly poses to Ukraine. “Russia’s aggressive and provocative actions in the Black and Azov Seas, its occupation & militarization of Crimea pose a lasting threat to Ukraine and allies,” he said. “We need a new quality of cooperation between Ukraine & NATO allies in the Black Sea.”
The incident followed by one day the signing of an agreement—on the deck of the HMS Defender in Odessa—between the U.K. and Ukraine for a $1.7 billion sale of eight Barzan-class fast-attack missile boats to the Ukrainian Navy.