The incident has not had serious consequences, but it has contributed to further increase the tension between Moscow and NATO
Russian coastal defense ships on Wednesday opened warning fire in the direction of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS ‘Defender’ for allegedly penetrating Russian territorial waters off Crimea, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The warning shots were later joined by a Russian Sukhoi-24M fighter jet. The incident has not had serious consequences, but it has contributed to further increase the tension between Russia and NATO. The military attache at the UK Embassy in Moscow has been called in to explain.
According to the coastal defense service, quoted by the TASS agency, the British ship went into Russian waters for a mile and a half and “ignored warnings” to turn. After firing by boats and ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, with the participation of a Su-24M aircraft, the destroyer “withdrew”. Now the British military attaché in the Russian capital will have to go to the Russian Defense Ministry to clarify what happened.
However, the UK Defense Ministry denies that the events were as reported in Moscow, according to Russian agencies. London assures that no shots were fired along the route of the “Defender”, which “was sailing peacefully through Ukrainian waters in accordance with international law.” The United Kingdom and the rest of the Alliance countries continue to consider Crimea a territory of Ukraine, despite the fact that Russia annexed the peninsula in March 2014. The British ministry also maintains that Russian ships were conducting firing exercises and that of such a circumstance they informed the «Defender».
The Russian analyst on military issues, Alexander Golts, told the Echo of Moscow radio station that the growing presence of NATO ships in the Black Sea worries Moscow, where “they are willing to further aggravate relations with the NATO if necessary. In Golts’s view, “Incidents of this nature can have dangerous and undesirable consequences. Let us not forget that American destroyers, capable of carrying up to 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles, are also participating in NATO’s “Sea Breeze” maneuvers, which will take place in the Black Sea between June 28 and July 10.
A few days ago, the “Defender”, which today had set course for Georgia, called at the Ukrainian port of Odessa. According to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, “on board the British destroyer, special forces of the Marine Corps of Ukraine, Great Britain and the United States carried out joint training.”
The Sea Breeze exercises will involve some 40 Alliance ships and 30 aircraft. The Russian Embassy in Washington has already warned that the maneuvers “increase the risk of unwanted incidents” and called on the US authorities to renounce such operations and leave the Black Sea, whose coasts belong not only to Russia, but also to Ukraine. Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.