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Russia says it fired warning shots at British warship, dropped bombs near it

Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24MR. (Dmitriy Pichugin, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
June 23, 2021

On Wednesday, Russian Defense Ministry officials told Russian news sources that a Russian warship fired warning shots and a Russian warplane dropped bombs near the United Kingdom warship, HMS Defender, which had crossed into Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea.

Russia’s state-run Tass News agency reported the Russian military issued a statement that, “At 11:52 on June 23 this year the destroyer URO Defender of the British Navy, operating in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, crossed the state border of the Russian Federation and entered the territorial sea in the area of ​​Cape Fiolent for 3 km.”

Russia said a border patrol ship fired warning shots, and the Su-24M bomber carried out warning bombing.

Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news service reported that the Su-24M Russian bomber waited nine minutes after the Russian warship fired its warning shots before it dropped a total of four OFAB-250 bombs near the British warship.

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense denied the alleged incident.

“No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender. The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law,” the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence Press Office tweeted. “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.”

Ben Wallace, the U.K. Secretary of State for Defence said the HMS Defender’s passage was simply shadowed by a Russian vessel and the British warship was made aware of nearby training.

“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,” Wallace said.

The HMS Defender (D36) is Daring-class air-defense destroyer and commissioned with the U.K.’s Royal Navy in 2013.

The differing narratives surrounding the interactions between the HMS Defender and Russia’s warships and aircraft come days after USNI News reported HMS Defender’s automatic identification system (AIS) signal appeared to have been faked. On June 19 the faked signal placed the British warship as approaching the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Russian-controlled Crimea, while live feed footage showed the British warship docked in the Ukrainian port of Odessa.