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June 24, 2021

UK and Russia in diplomatic row after British ship’s ‘innocent passage’

HMS Defender performed a routine transit from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea.

The UK and Russia are reportedly in a diplomatic row and military dispute after British Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender sailed off Crimea coast on 23 June.

Russia has accused the ship of entering its territorial waters near Crimea after the vessel went 3km inside Russian territory off Cape Fiolent.

In addition, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that a Su-24M fighter plane dropped bombs and a patrol boat fired warning shots in front of the UK ship.

A BBC reporter on the deck of HMS Defender said he ‘witnessed Russian warplanes and naval vessels buzzing the warship’.

Meanwhile, the UK has denied the accusation and said the passage was in Ukrainian territorial waters.

A statement from UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said: “This morning, HMS Defender carried out a routine transit from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea.

“As is normal for this route, she entered an internationally recognised traffic separation corridor. She exited that corridor safely at 09:45 BST. As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity.

The UK Defence Ministry Press Office also issued a statement saying that ‘no warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender’.

The statement said: “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.”

HMS Defender is part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which also includes the HMS Diamond, and USS The Sullivans, along with HMS Kent, HMS Northumberland, HNLMS Evertsen, RFA Tideforce, and RFA Fort Victoria.

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