One day after a reckless maneouver by a UK warship sailing just off the Crimea coast nearly started a hot war, Reuters reports that Russia warned Britain on Thursday that it would bomb British naval vessels in the Black Sea if there were any further provocative actions by the British navy off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea.
Additionally, Russia summoned the British ambassador in Moscow for a formal diplomatic scolding after the warship breached what the Kremlin says are its territorial waters but which Britain claims belong to Ukraine.
Russia said it chased a British destroyer out of Crimea waters with warning shots and bombs in its path, but Britain rejected Russia's account of the incident https://t.co/TKJpAn0J6k pic.twitter.com/4k6couQ7Q3— Reuters (@Reuters) June 23, 2021
Russia said the UK destroyer had ventured as far as 3 km (2 miles) into Russian waters near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on Crimea's southern coast near the port of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy's Black Sea fleet. Britain's BBC released footage from the ship showing a Russian coast guard warning that he would shoot if the British ship did not change course.
"If you don't change the course, I'll fire," a heavily accented Russian voice said in English to the British ship. The BBC said shots were fired and that as many as 20 Russian aircraft were "buzzing" the British ship. Britain said the shots were part of a Russian gunnery exercise, however this fake narrative quickly fell apart after Russia released footage filmed from a Russian SU-24 bomber flying close to the British ship.
"These aircraft posed no immediate threat to HMS Defender, but some of these manoeuvres were neither safe nor professional," Britain's Wallace said.
Britain disputed the Russian version of events, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calling it "predictably inaccurate". No warning shots had been fired and no bombs had been dropped in the path of the Royal Navy destroyer Defender, the UK said even though witness accounts clearly refuted the UK's official misrepresentation of what actually happened.
Britain's protests aside, Russia summoned Ambassador Deborah Bronnert for a reprimand over what it said were Britain's "dangerous" action in the Black Sea - while foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused London of "barefaced lies".
"We can appeal to common sense, demand respect for international law, and if that doesn't work, we can bomb," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told news agencies referring to Moscow's version of events in which a Russian aircraft bombed the path of the British destroyer. Ryabkov added that in the future, bombs would be sent "not only in its path, but also on target."
Crimea joined Russia after a 2014 referendum, in the aftermath of a CIA-inspired presidential coup in Ukraine which ended up backfiring as Ukraine lost territory that was historically Russian and is of great strategic significance. Understandably, Moscow considers areas around the Crimean coast to be Russian waters, while Western countries deem Crimea to be part of Ukraine and reject Russia's claim to the seas around it.
During its 2008 war with Georgia, Russia bristled at U.S. warships operating in the Black Sea, and in April the United States cancelled the deployment of two warships to the area. Indicatively, US warships in the Black Sea is roughly similar to Russia deploying its own warships to the Gulf of Mexico: one almost wonders how the US would respond.
Seeking to de-escalate tensions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the British warship, which was traveling from the Ukrainian port of Odessa to the Georgian port of Batumi, was acting in accordance with the law and had been in international waters.
"These are Ukrainian waters and it was entirely right to use them to go from A to B," Johnson said. British Defence Minister Ben Wallace accused Russian pilots of conducting unsafe aircraft manoeuvres 500 feet (152 m) above the warship.
"The Royal Navy will always uphold international law and will not accept unlawful interference with innocent passage," Wallace said. Under international law of the sea, innocent passage permits a vessel to pass through another state's territorial waters so long as this does not affect its security.
Well, then he should tell the ship to sail the same route again and be shocked when his idiotic actions start World War III.