MOSCOW — Russian warships fired warning shots, and a Russian warplane dropped missiles Wednesday to displace a British destroyer from an area of the Black Sea close to Crimea. This is an area that Russia claims it has claimed as its territorial waters.
This was the first time that Moscow used live ammunition since the Cold War to stop a NATO warship. It is a sign of growing dangers from military incidents in the midst of rising tensions between Russia and the West.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian warship fired warning shots following the British missile destroyer Defender’s failure to comply with a notice about intrusion in Russia’s territorial waters. To persuade the British ship to change its course, a Russian Su-24 bomber dropped four more bombs. The ministry reported that the British warship left Russian waters within minutes.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the British military attache was summoned to Moscow by the U.K. to protest the British destroyer maneuver.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense stated that it was aware of the reports, but did not immediately comment.
HMS Defender is a Type 45 destroyer and part of the U.K. Carrier Strike Group currently heading towards the Indo-Pacific. It was announced that the ship would be temporarily disengaging from the group in order to pursue its own set of missions in the Black Sea.
NATO has increased its Black Sea presence in support of Ukraine
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. This move was not recognized worldwide and allowed Russia to gain access to the long Black Sea coastline. Russia has repeatedly criticized NATO warships visiting Crimea and deemed them destabilizing.
NATO members Turkey and Bulgaria are all on the Black Sea. However, warships from the U.S. and U.K. have been making increasingly frequent visits to the area in support of Ukraine.