Vladimir Putin accuses UK of 'provocation' after incident with Portsmouth-based Royal Navy warship HMS Defender

RUSSIAN president Vladimir Putin has accused the UK and USA of ‘provocation’ following an incident involving a Royal Navy warship.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 3:33 pm

Portsmouth-based HMS Defender was shadowed by Russian vessels and buzzed by jets as she sailed through international waters around Crimea last week.

Russian defence officials claimed they fired warning shots at the Type 45 destroyer as she passed through the Black Sea on June 23, but this was disputed by the Ministry of Defence.

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HMS Defender in her home city of Portsmouth. Stock picture: Picture: Sarah Standing (143541-8622)

During a marathon live call-in show on Russian television, Mr Putin said: ‘I don’t think we were on the brink of World War Three’ but added that the incident ‘was a provocation’.

According to a translation of his comments on the Russian state-backed RT channel, Mr Putin said: ‘What were they trying to tell us, what goals were they trying to achieve?

‘It was a complex provocation organised by the US and the British because a warship entered our waters during the day and then at 5pm an American warplane took off from somewhere in Greece.’

The incident occurred off the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014 but the UK still recognises as part of Ukraine.

On HMS Defender, Mr Putin said the warship ‘came into our waters and they looked at how we were going to respond’ and added that ‘the plane was looking at how we were going to respond’.

‘I may have divulged a bit of a military secret there but I think our military is going to forgive me.’

The incident came a week after Mr Putin’s meeting with US President Joe Biden in Geneva and the Russian president appeared to suggest there could be a link to the incident off the Crimean peninsula.

A BBC journalist onboard the navy destroyer said it was buzzed by Russian military jets and the sound of naval gunfire could be heard as it sailed from Ukraine to Georgia.

But prime minister Boris Johnson has defended the actions of the Royal Navy

He said: ‘I think it was wholly appropriate to use international waters.

‘We don’t recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea, this is part of a sovereign Ukrainian territory, it was entirely right that we should indicate the law and pursue freedom of navigation in the way that we did, take the shortest route between two points, and that’s what we did.’

City-based HMS Trent is taking part in Sea Breeze with the US Navy in the Black Sea.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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