Russia summons UK envoy to ‘protest’ warship incident

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Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday summoned the British ambassador to “strongly protest” what it said was a British destroyer’s violation of its territory.

The spat between Moscow and London erupted Wednesday after the HMS Defender passed near Crimea in the Black Sea, with Russia saying it fired warning shots at the destroyer to ward it off. Britain denied the claim.

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Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and claims the waters around the peninsula as part of its territory.

Most countries including Britain did not recognize the takeover and stand behind Ukraine’s claims to the waters.

In a statement Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry said it had summoned UK ambassador Deborah Bronnert and issued a “strong protest” over the British vessel’s violation of Russia’s territory and its “provocative and dangerous actions.”

“In the event of a repetition of such provocations, all responsibility for their possible consequences will rest entirely on the British side,” the statement added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the incident as a “deliberate and prepared provocation.”

Russia’s defense ministry said warning shots were fired and bombs dropped along HMS Defender’s path before the ship left its territory.

Russia’s FSB security services provided video of the warning shots that public television channel Rossia 24 broadcast on Thursday evening.

Russian border guards repeatedly tell the British ship to change course and leave Russian territorial waters before the shots are fired.

“The Defender must not be hit,” can be heard on the video, before the instruction “Fire!”

London said it believed Russia was “undertaking a gunnery exercise” and had provided prior warning of its activity.

Incidents involving Western aircraft and ships are not uncommon at Russia’s borders, especially during heightened tensions with Washington, Brussels and London, but rarely result in open fire.

Wednesday’s incident comes ahead of the Sea Breeze 2021 military maneuvers to be held June 28 to July 10 in the Black Sea.

The exercises, bringing together more than 30 countries, include the United States and Ukraine.

Read more: Russian forces fire warning shots at British Navy ship in Black Sea, UK denies it

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