Russia Fires 'Warning' Shots at British Warship Near Crimea

Russia Fires 'Warning' Shots at British Warship Near Crimea

A Russian military ship fired warning shots at a British Royal Navy destroyer as it entered Russian waters in the Black Sea on Wednesday, followed by a fighter jet dropping bombs in the path of the British vessel, according to Russia's Defense Ministry.

The British embassy's defence attaché has been summoned to the Russian defence ministry, Interfax news agency reported.

The Russian defence ministry had earlier said a border patrol ship fired warning shots and that an Su-24 aircraft dropped four bombs along the T45 destroyer's path.

Ukraine had been free to navigate the Kerch Strait - of crucial importance to Kiev for exporting grain and steel - along with Russian Federation until 2014, when Moscow claimed full control of the waterway after annexing Crimea.

The Russian statement had claimed: "The destroyer was warned in advance that weapons would be fired in case of a violation of the Russian state border. It disregarded the warning", the statement said. "No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path", they said.

Firing was taking place, the MOD said, because the Russians were already undertaking pre-announced maritime gunnery and flight exercises in the area.

HMS Defender, a Type 45 destroyer, is part of the U.K. Carrier Strike Group now heading to the Indo-Pacific region.

A spokesman said: "No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender".

Defence Minister Ben Wallace similarly indicated that the British warship was carrying out "a routine transit" from Odessa towards Georgia, and suggested that the ship was operating in an "internationally recognised traffic separation corridor", "safely" exiting it at 9:45 am British standard time while being shadowed by Russian ships.

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 Royal Navy warship, one of the nation's newest and most technologically advanced, had sailed from the United Kingdom last month with the new carrier taskforce, but detached a fortnight ago to head to the Black Sea.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria all are on the Black Sea.

In April, Russia imposed restrictions on foreign navy ships' movements near Crimea until November in a move that drew strong complaints from Ukraine and the West. Russia has rejected that criticism and noted that the restrictions wouldn't interfere with commercial shipping.

Moscow withdrew some of its forces after sweeping manoeuvres but Ukrainian officials said the bulk of them remained.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia was "concerned" about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation build-up near Russian borders.

"We presume that it is a military organisation".

Russia's relations with the West have sunk to the lowest levels since the Cold War, following Moscow's annexation of Crimea, accusations of Russian interference with elections, hacking attacks and other tensions. The MoD has reported on thousands of maritime and aerial reconnaissance incidents along Russia's borders in the Arctic, the Baltic and Black Seas and the Russian Far East in recent years, with bloc spying operations complimented by regular North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and U.S. drills and troop deployments near Russia's borders.

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