British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday defended the Royal Navy destroyer’s sea route into the Black Sea after the Russian military said it had fired warning shots.
Moscow said a Su-24 plane and Russian ships had fired warning fire on Wednesday at a British destroyer that had entered Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea off Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
“We do not recognize the annexation of Crimea, that was illegal, this is Ukrainian water and it is absolutely correct to use it to go from one point to another,” Johnson said in response to questions from British stations.
On Wednesday, the British military said the destroyer HMS Defender “was making a simple transit in Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law,” adding, “We believe the Russians were conducting shooting exercises in the Black Sea.”
The British army invited journalists from the BBC and the Daily Mail to the ship to cross the Ukrainian port of Odessa to Georgia, passing near Crimea, where Russia has a major naval base.
The newspaper “Daily Mail” reported that the destroyer was escorted by Russian fighters and ships, and “repeated” artillery fire was heard.
This Russian-British clash is the first of its kind and comes a few days before the start of the “Sea Breeze 2021” military exercises, which are taking place between June 28 and July 10 with the participation of the United States, other NATO countries and Ukraine in the Black Sea, which angers Moscow.
The incident comes in an atmosphere of high tension between Russia and Britain over a series of diplomatic crises or even the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal on British soil with a chemical weapon in 2018.
But Johnson denied that relations between the two countries are at an all-time low.
“I remember periods in my life when things were worse, all we do is enforce the law, and this is one of the missions that this naval force is doing with other countries in the whole world,” he said.
© 2021 AFP