British Empire Taking the Lead in Efforts To Offend Russia
June 30, 2021 (EIRNS)—The June 23 incident in the Black Sea during which the U.K.’s HMS Defender provocatively sailed into waters claimed by Russia off the Crimean coast, was followed the very next day by a similar provocation by an associated Dutch ship, the HNLMS Evertsen. The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Evertsen approached the Kerch Strait after a change in course, and in order to prevent another violation of Russia’s territorial waters, “Sukhoi-30 fighters and Sukhoi-24 bombers were scrambled to fly near the Dutch naval ship at a safe distance.” The frigate promptly turned away from the Russian maritime border and continued along its original course. The HNLMS Evertsen has been sailing the Black Sea along with the HMS Defender and, like the Defender, is attached to the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier strike group.
The Dutch Defense Ministry yesterday charged that Russian fighter jets carried out feigned attacks against the Evertsen, that they had “repeatedly harassed the Evertsen” by flying “dangerously low and close,” and that the frigate’s electronic equipment was also disrupted.
This second incident makes it thoroughly clear that the dangerous Defender violation of Russian waters was by no means a one-off provocation by the British. In fact, it turns out that it was at least the third time since 2018 that the Royal Navy and its allies have provoked the Russians in the vicinity of Crimea. Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Andrey Kelin stated that there had been a similar incident last year also involving a British destroyer, the HMS Dragon, a sister ship of the Defender. The Dragon, he said, “committed similar actions, approaching Sevastopol at a certain distance” on Oct. 15, 2020. “That time, the [British] Defense Attaché was summoned. He was told that this was a violation of the Russian and international law regarding innocent passage. The Defense Attaché was warned that such things must not happen again. And, if they do, our reactions would be much harder,” the Kelin pointed out in a video statement posted on the embassy website.
The British response at the time was to categorically deny that anything had happened. “The Russian Federation Navy did not impede HMS Dragon’s passage. She navigated without incident, exercising our right of innocent passage under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” a Ministry of Defense spokesperson said. “HMS Dragon was taking the most direct route between two port visits, navigating a recognized safe route for all international shipping within Ukrainian waters.” This is the same language that was repeated with the HMS Defender incident on June 23.
Ambassador Kelin also pointed out that “as you can imagine, we are dealing with an intentional and deliberate provocation on behalf of the Britons.” The purpose has to do with the fact that these occur “as soon as there is a glimpse of thawing in relations between Russia and the West.” The other proof that “this has been a British plan” is the fact that there were “at least two journalists aboard the ship,” one from the Daily Mail and another from BBC, he said. Both of them saw the Crimean coastline, the vessel was that close.
Another feature of the British-led provocations against Russia, in which the U.S. is a willing participant, is the appearance of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Alaska in the British territory of Gibraltar on June 28, an event which, it turns out, is exceedingly rare. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Lenaya Rotklein, a spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet, told the War Zone that this was the first time an Ohio-class submarine had paid a visit to Her Majesty’s Naval Base Gibraltar since 1999. “Alaska is on a routine patrol in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa,” Rotklein said. “This brief stop strengthens cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom-Gibraltar.”