On Wednesday, a British warship was involved in a confrontation with Russian forces off the coast of the disputed territory of Crimea. Russia claims that it dropped bombs and fired warning shots to chase a British warship out of its territorial waters in the Black Sea. The UK Defense Ministry refuted Moscow’s allegation, saying its vessel, HMS Defender, was ‘conducting an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.’
Jonathan Beale, a BBC journalist on board the vessel during the incident, reported that the vessel had been harassed by the Russian military. As Beale reported on the BBC website, he could hear aircraft overhead making increasingly hostile radio threats. ‘If you don’t change course, I’ll fire,’ one warning read.Just before noon local time on Wednesday, Russia reported the ship went 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) into its territory off Cape Fiolent in Crimea. Territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers)from a country’s coastline. With a few exceptions, foreign warships going beyond that limit would require permission from the country.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a report from Russian state media TASS that an attack jet dropped bombs and a patrol ship fired warning shots soon after the British ship crossed the border.The UK Ministry of Defence also stated that no warning shots were fired at its destroyer on Wednesday, contrary to what the Russian Defense Ministry claimed, as cited by TASS. In a statement, the UK Defence Ministry Press Office said Russians were attempting gunnery exercises in the Black Sea and gave prior notice of their activities. ‘We do not accept the claim that bombs were dropped in her path,’ the statement said. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told TASS that the British ambassador would be summoned to the ministry.
On Tuesday, the British warship took to its Twitter account to confirm that defense officials from Ukraine and the UK had signed an agreement to ‘enhance Ukraine’s naval capabilities’ with the help of the British defense contractor Babcock. This move would have irked Moscow, which had annexed Crimea from Ukraine after a military intervention in 2014. Since the annexation, relations between Russia and NATO allies have been tense in the Black Sea.