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Russia accuses US, Britain of stirring up tensions in Black Sea

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows the British HMS Defender.

Russia has accused the United States and Britain of seeking to incite conflict in the Black Sea, following the UK military’s “provocative” actions off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula in the strategic waters.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made the remark on Friday, adding that Washington and London were fueling tensions in the region by failing to accept Crimea as a part of Russia.

Ryabkov said Moscow reserved the right to respond resolutely to any “provocative” actions in the region, adding that Russia would defend its borders by any means.

“Washington and London are denying reality... they are trying to provoke conflict,” he said. “These are Russian territorial waters, this is our border. I can confirm that we will defend it with all possible means, including military.”

Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014, and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the move, which plunged relations between Moscow and the West into crisis.

The latest development came a day after Moscow slammed as a provocation a British destroyer’s breach of Russian territorial waters off the Crimean coast and warned the UK not to make any further provocative actions in the region.

On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had stopped a violation of the state border by the British destroyer HMS Defender off Crimea’s Cape Fiolent.

According to the ministry, the British military vessel ventured three kilometers into Russian territorial waters, prompting a Russian border guard patrol ship to fire warning shots and a Sukhoi-24M bomber to drop bombs in front of the destroyer.

Following the warning maneuvers, the HMS Defender left the waters, but the Russian ministry slammed the trespassing as a crude violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and called on London to investigate the actions of the destroyer’s crew members.

However, the British side denied that warning shots had been fired and that any bombs had been dropped in the path of the HMS Defender.

Earlier in the day, Russia said hostile actions by the British warship near Russian territorial waters could not have been carried out without the urging of the US.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the White House and the Pentagon had referred reporters to London to ask London about the warship incident in the Black Sea.

The incident came amid intensifying tensions between the West and Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The UK began deploying naval assets to the Black Sea in the spring to apply pressure on Russia and signal solidarity with Ukraine. And the US and its NATO allies are conducting military exercises in the Black Sea. The war games will run from June 28 to July 10.

Russia says the United States and NATO are involved in provocative activities in the waters and the airspace of the Black Sea.

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