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UK denies claims Russia fired warning shots, dropped bombs near British ship

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The UK has denied Moscow’s claims a Russian warship fired warning shots and a plane dropped bombs to force a British destroy from waters near Crimea in the Black Sea.

“No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender,” the UK Ministry of Defence Office said in a tweet on Wednesday night.

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

The Russian Defence Ministry had earlier announced the alleged military action, while claiming the waters belonged to Russia.

The Russian ministry said its warship fired warning shots after the British missile destroyer Defender had ignored a notice against intrusion in Russia’s territorial waters.

It said that a Russian Su-24 bomber also dropped bombs ahead of the British ship to persuade it to change course.

The UK instead said it believed 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,” the UK Ministry of Defence said.

A file photograph provided by the Russian Defence Ministry Press Service in December 2015 shows a Russian Su-24 bomber landing at Hemeimeem air base in Syria. (AP)
Russia reportedly used SU-24 bombers to conduct the airstrikes.
Russia said it used an Su-24 bomber to drop bombs. (Russian Ministry of Defence)

It’s unclear why the countries have issued such differing descriptions of the incident.

It would have marked the first time since the Cold War that Moscow had used live ammunition to deter a NATO warship, reflecting growing risks of military incidents amid soaring Russia-West tensions.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, a move that was not recognised by most countries in the world.

Russia has frequently chafed at NATO warships visits near Crimea, casting them as destabilising.

NATO members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria all are on the Black Sea but warships from the US, UK and other NATO allies also have made increasingly frequent visits in a show of support to Ukraine.

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