Russia on Wednesday announced that it had fired “warning shots” and dropped bombs in the path of the British warship HMS Defender to chase it out of Crimean waters, news agency Reuters reported. England, however, denied the incident, saying that the shots fired were a “pre-announced Russian gunnery exercise”, and that no bombs were dropped.
The incident reportedly took place in the Black Sea off the coast of the Crimea peninsula. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and treats the waters around it as its own. England does not recognise the annexation and treats Crimea as part of Ukraine.
BBC journalist Jonathan Beale was on board the HMS Defender when the incident occurred. According to Beale, HMS Defender was being shadowed by a Russian warship after leaving the port of Odessa in Ukraine. “They can see us, we can see them,” one person on the British warship answered when asked if they were being watched by the Russians.
Lieutenant Commander Ben Dorrington of the British Navy had raised the concern of a possible confrontation before HMS Defender was about to sail into what Russia calls its territorial waters but is a “legally-recognised shipping lane”.
“Their posture will likely be more belligerent because of our proximity,” Dorrington told Beale.
Following a warning from the Russian Coast Guard, the British Navy soldiers on board HMS Defender had to wear protective clothing. According to Beale, shots were fired but “well out of range”.
This account is contradictory to the statement issued by the British defence ministry after the incident that stated: “no shots have been fired at HMS Defender”.
At least 20 Russian military aircraft were detected near HMS Defender during its transit, Beale’s account said.
The Russian government has also released its own footage of the incident.