by Tim Korso
Last week, the UK Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender entered the off-shore waters of Crimea, which Russia considers its territory. A Russian border patrol ship had to fire warning shots and a fighter jet had to drop bombs in HMS Defender’s path to force the destroyer out of the nation’s territorial waters.
Claims in the British media about Russian ships routinely entering the UK’s national waters are a piece of state-backed disinformation, Russian envoy to the nation, Andrey Kelin, has said in a statement published in The Daily Telegraph.
“Of course, the Russian Navy and Air Force conduct exercises in various regions, including the Baltic and the North Sea, but strictly in international waters and airspace. There has been no occasion whatsoever for a Russian ship or aircraft to be in violation of British territorial waters or air above it”, the envoy said.
Kelin added that stories, claiming Russian warships allegedly violate the UK’s borders on a regular basis, had started to emerge in the British media soon after the incident in the Black Sea involving the Royal Navy’s HMS Defender, which is in “stark contrast” to the Russian Navy’s behaviour. The former “deliberately and provocatively crossed into territorial waters off Crimea”, the envoy noted.
A Russian patrol ship had to fire warning shots, while a scrambled Su-24M fighter had to drop bombs in the path of HMS Defender, in order to force the British destroyer to leave the country’s territorial waters after it ignored other warnings telling it to do so. A trove of alleged UK Ministry of Defence documents, obtained by the BBC last Sunday, suggests that the HMS Defender’s intrusion on 23 June into the waters that Russia considers its own territory was deliberately planned and Moscow’s response to it – expected.
The contents of the documents also suggested that by sending its destroyer to Crimean waters London hoped to assert its position of non-recognition of the results of a referendum on Crimea’s unification with Russia and to back Ukrainian claims to the peninsula.
In his statement for The Telegraph, Russian Envoy Andrey Kelin, criticised these alleged plans by London. He argued that the UK’s claims HMS Defender used its right of an “innocent” passage on 23 June hold no water now that London’s true intentions had been revealed to the world.
The incident was also condemned by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his annually televised “Q&A session” with the country’s citizens. He argued that HMS Defender was clearly pursuing military goals by entering Crimea’s waters and added that the provocation was orchestrated by the UK in concert with the US.
London, in turn, insists on the innocent nature of the destroyer’s passage and claims that no warning shots were fired by Russian forces to fend off the warship. The UK also recalled that it does not recognise Moscow’s sovereignty over Crimea’s waters.