MoD deny Russia's claim they fired 'warning shots' at Black Sea Destroyer

23 June 2021, 12:45 | Updated: 24 June 2021, 00:25

By Will Taylor

The Defence Attaché at the British Embassy in Moscow has been summoned, after the UK dismissed Russia's claims of warning shots at a Royal Navy destroyer in the Black Sea.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the incident took place after the British ship entered the country's waters.

The area has become an arena for tense global relations after Russia seized the Crimea from Ukraine, leading to territorial disputes.

A border patrol boat fired warning shots at HMS Defender and an Su-24M warplane dropped four bombs near to the ship, a statement reported by the Russian Interfax news agency said.

"The destroyer was warned in advance that weapons would be fired in case of a violation of the Russian state border. It disregarded the warning," the statement said.

"As a result of joint actions of the Black Sea Fleet and the Border Service of the Russian Federal Security Service, HMS Defender left the territorial sea of the Russian Federation at 12.23pm."

HMS Defender has visited Ukraine
HMS Defender has visited Ukraine. Picture: PA

The Ministry of Defence denied Russia's claims, saying no warning shots were fired.

"The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law," they said on Twitter.

"We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity.

"No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path."

A statement from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "This morning, HMS Defender carried out a routine transit from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea."

"As is normal for this route, she entered an internationally recognised traffic separation corridor.

"She exited that corridor safely at 0945 BST.

"As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It's incorrect to say either that it was fired upon or that the ship was in Russian waters.

"HMS Defender was taking the most direct and internationally recognised route between Ukraine and Georgia.

"As you know, the UK does not recognise Russia's claim to Crimea and we continue to uphold the international consensus that Russia's annexation of Crimea is illegal."