Russia has warned the UK and the US against “tempting fate” by sending warships near the country’s territorial waters in the strategic Black Sea, saying Moscow would defend its borders through all possible means including military force.
“We call on the Pentagon and the British navy, which are sending their warships into the Black Sea, not to tempt fate in vain,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesperson, said in a statement broadcast on state TV Friday.
Konashenkov stressed that it was ill-advised for British and American vessels to approach the Russian territorial waters off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) stopped on Wednesday a violation of the state border by the British destroyer HMS Defender off Crimea’s Cape Fiolent.
The British military vessel ventured three kilometres 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 Russia 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
Konashenkov went on to say that the British destroyer which sailed through waters off Crimea was “not more than a target” for the Black Sea fleet’s defenses.
Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the US 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.
Ryabkov added that Washington and London were fueling tensions in the region by failing to accept Crimea as a part of Russia.
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 a free fall.
The US, the European Union, and Ukraine claim that Russia has annexed the region. Moscow strongly rejects the allegation.
The Wednesday's incursion also drew widespread backlash from other Russian authorities, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov lambasting as a deliberate and prepared provocation the British destroyer's breach of Russia’s territorial waters off the Crimean coast.
Peskov stressed that Moscow reserves the right to respond resolutely to such moves by the British navy.
Moreover, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said hostile actions by the British warship near Russian territorial waters could not have been carried out without the urging of the US.
Zakharova said the White House and the Pentagon had referred reporters to the UK 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, with the UK having deployed naval assets to the Black Sea to signal solidarity with Ukraine and the US-led military alliance of NATO preparing to conduct drills in the strategic waters.
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