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June 24, 2021

Russia on Thursday warned that it is prepared to fire at or bomb intruding warships to protect its borders in a move that threatens to further escalate growing tensions between Moscow and the West, hours after claiming it had fired at a British naval ship that sailed near Crimea–which Russia claims as part of its territorial waters.

 

Russia claimed that one of its warships fired warning shots while one of its combat jets dropped bombs in the path of the British navy destroyer HMS Defender on Wednesday to drive it away from an area near the Crimean port of Sevastapol, the state-run TASS News Agency reported.

Britain has denied this account, saying its ship wasn’t fired upon and adding that the destroyer was “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”

 

Commenting on the Black Sea incident, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that Moscow has a right to “bomb on target” when foreign warships intrude into its sea border.

"The territorial integrity of the Russian Federation is inviolable. The inviolability of its borders is an absolute imperative, we will stand guard over all this by diplomatic, political and, if necessary, military means," Ryabkov said on Thursday.

In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula—a part of Ukraine’s territory. The move, however, is not recognized by Britain and several other nations. Since then, NATO military ships have sailed close to Crimea, moves that the Kremlin decries as destabilizing. Earlier this year, Russia announced that it will restrict the navigation of foreign military and official ships in parts of the Black Sea until October, prompting swift condemnation from Ukraine and the West. While Russia’s defense ministry describes the entry of the British ship into the Black Sea as a “gross violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the British government has dismissed this. According to the Associated Press, Max Blain, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “HMS Defender was taking the most direct and internationally recognized route between Ukraine and Georgia,” and emphasized that Russia’s annexation of Crimea is not recognized by it.