HMS Defender: UK denies Russia fired warning shots at Royal Navy warship in waters off Crimea

The Ministry of Defence denied shots were fired by a Russian patrol boat towards HMS Defender.

HMS Defender, Russian forces fired warning shots at the Royal Navy destroyer after it entered the country's territorial waters in the Black Sea, the Russian Defence Ministry has said

Britain has accused Russia of “disinformation” after Moscow claimed its forces fired warning shots at a Royal Navy warship in waters off Crimea.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) denied shots were fired by a Russian patrol boat towards HMS Defender and that a warplane dropped four high explosive fragmentation bombs in its path during its passage through the Black Sea.

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At a glance: 5 key points

- The British ambassador Deborah Bronnert was later summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow after Russia accused the Type 45 destroyer of straying into its territorial waters.

- But appearing before the Commons Defence Committee, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insisted the ship had stuck throughout to an internationally recognised “traffic separation route”.

- He acknowledged it had been “shadowed” by Russian forces during its transit from Odessa in southern Ukraine towards Georgia but played down the incident saying it was “routine” practice.

- However, a BBC reporter aboard the HMS Defender said at times there had been 20 Russian warplanes monitoring its progress and that the sound of gunfire had been heard, although it was believed to be out of range.

- Defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said throughout its passage the crew had been on high alert, at one point donning their “white flash” protective equipment in case there was an exchange of fire.

What’s been said

“These are the things that come an go with Russia. Disinformation, misinformation is something that we have seen regularly. We are not surprised by it,” he said.

“We plan for it and we take all steps to make sure we are not escalatory or provocative.

“However we will not shy away from upholding international law and our rights on the sea.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

Background

The latest flare-up comes amid months of tensions between Moscow and the west following a build-up earlier this year of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine.

The Kremlin – which annexed Crimea in 2014 – has been riled by the movement of Nato warships in the Black Sea seen as offering support to Ukraine.

HMS Defender is part of the UK Carrier Strike Group currently heading to the Indo-Pacific region.

However, it was announced earlier this month that it would be temporarily breaking away from the group to carry out its “own set of missions” in the Black Sea.

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