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[Operation Flashpoint]Royal Navy: Background as MoD denies Russia fired warning shots at UK warship HMS Defender in Black

2021-06-29

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  The Russian Defence Ministry has today said that its forces fired warning shots at Royal Navy Type-45 destroyer HMS Defender after it entered the country’s territorial waters in the Black Sea.

  However, The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has dismissed the reports from Russia, insisting it was a routine gunnery exercise and the Royal Navy vessel was “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law”.

  In a statement posted on Twitter, the MoD said: “No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender.

  “The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.

  “We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity.

  “No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path.”

  However, the Russian Defence Ministry claimed a border patrol boat fired warning shots at HMS Defender and a Su-24M warplane dropped four bombs close to the ship.

  “The destroyer was warned in advance that weapons would be fired in case of a violation of the Russian state border. It disregarded the warning,” the statement said.

  “As a result of joint actions of the Black Sea Fleet and the Border Service of the Russian Federal Security Service, HMS Defender left the territorial sea of the Russian Federation at 12.23pm.”

  HMS Defender had been part of the 'ring of steel' protecting aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, but was pulled from the Carrier Strike Group “to carry out her own set of missions in the Black Sea”.

  Yesterday, Tuesday July 23, a spokesperson for HMS Defender said the state-the-art Daring-class air-defence destroyer was leaving Odesa in Southern Ukraine – with Royal Netherlands Navy Frigate HNLMS Evertsen – to “continue our operations in the Black Sea”.

  On twitter, the spokesperson said HMS Defender came alongside in Odesa on July 18 and the ship's company was “looking forward to exploring this historic naval city and strengthening our relationship with the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine”.

  It had previously been in Istanbul for a port visit on July 14.

  Last month, the Royal Navy said Defender had completed NATO security operations in the Mediterranean and would be heading to the Black Sea after a stop in Istanbul.

  ”The Type 45 destroyer is part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group but has peeled away from the task group temporarily to carry out her own set of missions in the Black Sea,” said a Navy spokesperson last month.

  It came amid growing tensions in the region after Russia reportedly announced it would close a crucial strait in the Black Sea to foreign warships, including the Royal Navy, for the next six months.

  UK and other G7 nations then demanded that Russia 'ended provocations and de-escalates tensions' in Ukraine.

  This came after Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon jets, armed with Paveway bombs and Brimstone missiles, were sent to Romania amid fears President Putin was preparing to invade its neighbour.

  UK defence chiefs confirmed the multirole fighter jets would be policing the skies around the Black Sea.

  And, in April, the MoD said one of UK's nuclear-powered submarines – armed with Tomahawk missiles – would operate in the black sea as part of NATO Operation Sea Guardian.

  The Black Sea has been a potential flashpoint since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

  The peninsula – which is 65.3% ethnically Russian – was part of Russia from 1783 until 1954, when the Soviet government transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkrSSR).

  Ukraine declared independence from Russia in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, taking Crimea with it.

  However, Sevastopol – the largest city in Crimea and a major port on the Black Sea – remained the main base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. It has been home to Russian Navy base since 1783.

  In 2016, Ukraine – along with former Soviet countries Moldova and Georgia – entered into a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement with the EU.

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