Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender was warned 'change course or we will fire' by Russian forces during tense Crimea stand-off

ROYAL Navy warship HMS Defender was warned by Russian forces to change course or be fired upon during a tense encounter off the coast of Crimea.

By Richard Lemmer
Thursday, 24th June 2021, 9:25 am
The Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Defender, had a close encounter with Russian forces off the coast of Crimea yesterday. Picture: Royal Navy
The Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Defender, had a close encounter with Russian forces off the coast of Crimea yesterday. Picture: Royal Navy

The Portsmouth-based destroyer was travelling 12 miles off the coast of the territory when it was given a stark warning by nearby Russian military units.

The close-encounter has led to conflicting reports from the Ministry of Defence and the Russian Defence Ministry, which claimed it had fired warning shots at HMS Defender.

Onboard BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale recorded the moment a Russian commander warned the British ship: ‘if you don’t change course, I will be fire’.

The Russian warning continued: ‘If you cross the border line, I will fire.’

The warning caused crew to put on protective masks and clothing in preparation for firing shortly before a volley of fire could be heard out of range.

Meanwhile at least 20 military aircraft surrounded the ship, with BBC footage capturing the moment some low-flying jets ‘buzzed’ the British destroyer.

HMS Defender was travelling through an internationally recognised shipping lane, but Russia could have taken the ship’s presence as belligerent, Lieutenant Commander Ben Dorrington onboard HMS Defender told the BBC.

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Speaking before the close-encounter, he said: ‘Their posture will likely to be more belligerent because of our proximity to what they view as their waters.

‘There’s a contentious point.’

BBC footage also shows the moment that two Russian coastguard ships came dangerously close to the Royal Navy vessel, closing in to about 100 metres distance.

Now the Russian Defence Ministry has released footage captured by its military jets, showing how close they were to HMS Defender.

In a statement, the MoD said the shots heard by the crew appeared to have related to a gunnery exercise of which the Russians had given advance notice to the maritime community.

Appearing before the Commons defence committee, defence secretary Ben Wallace insisted the ship had stuck throughout to an internationally recognised ‘traffic separation route’ and that Russia was engaged in ‘disinformation’.

He aid it was not the first time the Russians had made false claims about British warships operating in the area, having previously claimed to have ‘chased out’ another Type 45 destroyer, HMS Dragon.

‘These are the things that come and go with Russia. Disinformation, misinformation is something that we have seen regularly. We are not surprised by it,’ he said.

The incident took place off the coast of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.

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