Russia fires warning shots to turn back British warship off disputed Crimea, UK denies

A British warship was involved in a confrontation with Russian forces off the coast of the disputed territory of Crimea on Wednesday.

Russia says one of its warplanes dropped bombs and a patrol boat fired warning shots to turn back a British destroyer it claims entered into its territorial waters in the Black Sea.

The UK Defense Ministry denied Moscow’s accusation, saying that the vessel, HMS Defender, was making a legal and innocent passage.

Russia said the ship went three kilometers inside Russian territory off Cape Fiolent in Crimea just before noon local time on Wednesday. A nation’s territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from it’s coastline. Any foreign warship going past that limit would need permission of the country to do so with a few exceptions.

Shortly after the British ship crossed the territorial boundary, an Su-24M attack jet dropped bombs and a coastal patrol ship fired warning shots in front of the British destroyer, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a report from Russian state media TASS.

British officials pushed back on the Russian allegations.

“This morning, HMS Defender carried out a routine transit from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea. As is normal for this route, she entered an internationally recognised traffic separation corridor. She exited that corridor safely at 0945 BST. As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a tweet.

The UK Ministry of Defence said no warning shots were fired at its destroyer Wednesday, contrary to what the Russian Defense Ministry claimed, as cited by TASS.

Relations between Russia and NATO allies have been tense in the Black Sea since the annexation.

Russian warplanes have buzzed US destroyers on routine operations in the Black Sea and US reconnaissance aircraft conduct regular patrols above it.

HMS Defender has been operating as part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21, which the UK Defense Ministry calls “the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.”

The flotilla is led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and US and Dutch warships are also deployed with the group.