Russia warns it will bomb HMS Defender ship if it sails near Crimea again
This comes after the vessel was seen sailing from Ukraine to Georgia via a shipping channel near Crimea on Wednesday
The Russian government have warned the UK that they will "bomb not only the path but hit the target." should they detect the British ship, HMS Defender, in supposed Crimean waters again.
Britain, strongly supported by Ukraine, insists that HMS Defender was taking the shortest, most direct route across the Black Sea from Odessa (Ukraine) to Georgia; however, the route itself is just a few miles from the shores of the Crimean peninsula which was annexed by the Russian Federation in 2014.
The move itself was condemned by the West and never internationally recognised, yet still, the Kremlin insist that it is part of their territory and, as such, have accused the Royal Navy of a “deliberate act of provocation”.
They also stated that warning shots were fired at the vessel, scaring naval forces out of the area, though the UK initially denied these reports. However, as you can see in the video above, distant shots were fired as more than 20 Russian aircraft were identified flying far too close for comfort.
The country's deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, issued the following warning:
"What can we do? We can appeal to common sense, demand respect for international law. If this does not help, we can bomb not only in the direction but also on target, if our colleagues do not understand. I warn everyone violating the state borders of the Russian Federation under the slogan of free navigation, from such provocative steps, because the security of our country comes first."
British minister, George Eustice, has said ships will continue to sail through the disputed region, stating "these were Ukrainian territorial waters"; meanwhile, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, admitted there is a potential for an engagement to flare up, suggesting Britain is playing a "dangerous game".
The former Defence Secretary told BBC 4: "There's huge scope for an accident to occur, misinterpretation, leading to an actual kinetic engagement and it could be a bit of time before somebody grabs that red phone and calms things down."
The UK isn't the only nation butting heads with Vladimir Putin and his administration, as relations between US and Russia are also teetering on a knife-edge, with President Biden having urged the Russian leader to de-escalate tensions with the Ukraine and having previously labelled him "a killer".