MOSCOW, 24 June: A war of words between Moscow and London escalated on Thursday as both sides accused one another of giving inaccurate accounts of an incident involving a British warship and Russia forces in the Black Sea.
Russia said on Wednesday it fired war warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of HMS Defender as it sailed off the coast of the Crimea peninsula, accusing the Royal Navy destroyer of breaching its territorial waters.
The United Kingdom has disputed Russia’s account, saying no warning shots were fired and no bombs were dropped, but suggested a Russian gunnery exercise had been taking place in the area.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday denounced Moscow’s claims.
“No shots were fired at HMS Defender,” Raab told reporters in Singapore, during a visit to discuss trade deals.
“The Royal Navy ship was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters. We were doing so in accordance with international law and the Russian characterisation is predictably inaccurate.”
“Innocent passage” is an internationally recognised right for ships to sail through territorial waters of a country, provided they mean no harm. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Moscow considers areas around the Crimean peninsula’s coast to be Russian waters, but Western countries deem Crimea to be part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the seas around it.
In comments broadcast on state television, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the UK of lying regarding its account of events.
Zakharova said the UK’s ambassador will be summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Thursday over the episode, which the Kremlin described as a “provocation”.
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