Portsmouth warship to sail into Black Sea weeks after Russia claimed it chased a Royal Navy destroyer out of region
A BRITISH warship supporting the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth on her first mission is to sail into the Black Sea amid rising tensions with Russia.
Portsmouth-based HMS Defender is heading to the region having just completed a Nato security operation in the Mediterranean.
The Type 45 destroyer is part of the UK’s carrier strike group but has peeled away from the task force temporarily to carry out operations in the Black Sea.
The £1bn vessel, currently in Istanbul, will be accompanied by Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen, which is also part of the carrier strike group.
Defender’s venture to the Black Sea comes amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West over the conflict in Ukraine.
Earlier this year, thousands of Russian troops and heavy armour were seen massing at the Ukrainian border in a worrying show of force.
The move to sail to the Black Sea comes weeks after Russia claimed it had ‘expelled’ another Portsmouth-based warship from the Crimean coast.
The alleged incident took place in October off the coast of Crimea but was only revealed last month.
Moscow claimed that Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon had ignored 'warnings' not to enter 'Russian territorial waters' and warplanes and ships were dispatched to move her along.
The claim was branded categorically untrue by the Ministry of Defence.
‘HMS Dragon was taking the most direct route between two port visits, navigating a recognised safe route for all international shipping within Ukrainian waters,' an MoD spokesman from said.
'The Russian Federation Navy did not impede HMS Dragon’s passage. She navigated without incident, exercising our right of innocent passage under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,’
Defender’s captain Commander Vincent Owen said his crew was ready for its latest mission.
He added: ‘After over 12 months of preparations with the added challenges of Covid-19, it is fantastic to have sailed and started deployment as part of the UK carrier strike group.
‘These first weeks as we have worked with Nato on Operation Sea Guardian in the Mediterranean has shown what a superb asset the Type 45 destroyer is and in particular the ability of the highly-trained men and women we have on board to be able to achieve a range of tasks at short notice.
‘We are all very proud to be part of this milestone deployment showcasing Global Britain and the UK Carrier Strike capability, we are ready for whatever tasking we are called to deliver.’