15:45 GMT23 July 2021
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    The Russian Ministry of Defence stated on Wednesday that the UK destroyer HMS Defender had entered its territorial waters off the coast of Crimea in the Black Sea deliberately as a provocation, with a Russian border patrol vessel firing warning shots at the warship, as the British side repeatedly made contradictory statements about the incident.

    Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby weighed in on the recent incident with the British destroyer HMS Defender and a Russian patrol ship in the Black Sea near Crimea, as he gave a press briefing on 24 June.

    Kirby was asked about the events that saw the Russian vessel fire warning shots at HMS Defender, which violated the state border of the Russian Federation, entering three kilometres into its territorial waters, near Cape Fiolent, in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.

    The retired Unites States Navy rear admiral, who currently serves as Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, responded by saying:

    “Well, I would ask you to go back and look at what the British Ministry of Defence said yesterday. I think they, and this is really for them to speak to, but they were very public about the fact that there was no shots fired as warning to HMS Defender. That it was simply Russian disinformation, as yet another example of the Russians trying to spin events to suit their own narrative. It just didn't happen.”

    The Russian Embassy to the United States was swift to slam the “disinformation” accusations lobbed against Russia by Kirby as “groundless”.

    The embassy wrote on its Twitter page that the US was “denying the obvious” harbouring “illusions” regarding the actual situation in Crimea.

    ‘Clear Provocation’

    Amid contradictory statements from the sides involved in the incident, as the British military claimed its warship the HMS Defender had conducted an entirely peaceful passage and denied warning shots were fired at it from a Russian patrol vessel, Russia's Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has released a full-length video.

    Footage showed Russian coast guard boats warning the HMS Defender that they will open fire if the British destroyer does not leave Russian territorial waters around Crimea.

    The Russian government has characterised the incident as a clear provocation, with the Russian Foreign Ministry telling the United Kingdom that if similar actions take place again, the "possible consequences" would "rest entirely" on the British side.

    Claims of ‘Innocent Passage’

    During a visit to a military camp in the English town of Aldershot on Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed it was entirely right for the British warship to be sailing in the Black Sea off Crimea.

    He emphasised that the UK government does not recognise Crimea's reunification with Russia and, therefore, rejects Russia's claim to those waters.

    "These are a matter for the MoD [Ministry of Defence], but if you want my view I think it was wholly appropriate to use international waters. And by the way, the important point is that we don’t recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea, this is part of a sovereign Ukrainian territory," said Johnson.

    Moscow has pointed out that the Crimean peninsula hasn't been a part of Ukraine since 2014, when a US- and EU-backed coup ousted the country's democratically-elected president and prompted the peninsula's residents to hold a referendum to reject Kiev's jurisdiction and rejoin Russia. The UK, US, and their allies have refused to recognise this state of affairs.

    Claims of “innocent passage” by HMS Defender through "Ukrainian territorial waters" were echoed by UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace on Thursday.

    ‘Possible Consequences’

    Russian foreign and defence ministries summoned British diplomatic officials in Moscow on Wednesday in connection with the British destroyer's breach of Russia's maritime borders in Crimea.

    Moscow has informed Britain's ambassador in Russia that the "possible consequences" of a repeat of a "provocation" like Wednesday's incident would "rest entirely on the UK side."

    Russia says the British warship had sailed as far as 3 kilometres (2 miles) into Russian waters near the southernmost tip of Sevastopol, a Russian naval base.

    Russia Britain Warship Incident
    Russian Federal Security Service
    Russia Britain Warship Incident

    The violation of maritime borders, which the Russian side regards as “gross non-compliance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," prompted gunboats to fire warning shots at the warship that the UK Ministry of Defence dismissed as part of an “exercise”.

    The Russian Defence Ministry said it scrambled a Su-24M attack aircraft that dropped four bombs in the path of the British destroyer, passing roughly 15 km off the Russian Black Sea Fleet's home base in Sevastopol. In the end, the British warship signalled its readiness to change course back into international waters.

     

    Related:

    Moscow Says UK Should Rename HMS Defender to ‘HMS Aggressor’ Following Black Sea Scuffle
    UK PM Johnson Claims HMS Defender Sailed in International Waters
    Moscow Warns British Envoy 'Consequences' of HMS Defender-Style Provocations 'Will Rest on UK Side'
    Watch: FSB Releases Full-Length Footage of Russian Vessel Firing Warning Shots at HMS Defender
    Tags:
    Ben Wallace, Russian Foreign Ministry, Boris Johnson, Pentagon, Pentagon, John Kirby, HMS Defender, HMS Defender
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