RUSSIA has issued a threat to the UK saying it will make it “difficult” for British warships to pass through the disputed Black Sea.
Andrei Kelin, 64, the Russian ambassador to the UK, has spoken out following the incident with Britain’s HMS Defender as it sailed near Crimea in June this year.
Defence officials said “no warning shots were fired” and HMS Defender was simply carrying out an “innocent passage through Ukranian territorial waters in accordance with international law”.
However, Kelin has now claimed the destroyer was not on an “innocent passage” but a demonstrative one, according to a Russian news outlet.
Kelin said: “We did not say that we would open fire, as some parliamentarians may have said, but next time it will be much more difficult for them, because this is not the first time a British warship has done this.”
Moscow claims the waters are part of Russian territory but the UK says the ship was in a commonly used and internationally recognised transit route.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed [the ship’s] passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity.”
A source reportedly told the BBC that the ship was there to “make a point” and to “assert its right to freedom of navigation in international waters”.
Russia’s defence ministry claimed the ship’s entry into its waters amounted to a “gross violation” and called the action “dangerous”.
A tweet from the Russian embassy in the UK said: “HMS Defender turns HMS Provocateur and violates Russian border. Not exactly a ‘routine’ transit, is it?”
The BBC journalist onboard the ship during the incident reported hearing “hostile warnings over the radio as the warship’s crew prepared for a possible confrontation.”
The reporters also said he saw more than 20 aircraft overhead and a pair of Russian coastguard boats that were just 100m away at times.