In conjunction with the Coast Guard, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has chased a British destroyer, the Defender, from Russian waters with warning shots, Russian media said. Warning shots were fired, and a nearby fighter plane dropped four bombs into the sea.
The incident is said to have taken place earlier this month. Moscow has asked the British embassy for an explanation. A Dutch ship, the Evertsen, and an American ship are also said to have entered the waters off the coast of Crimea earlier this month.
On Wednesday, the British government denied that they had been shot at by Russians and stressed that the ships were passing peacefully through Ukrainian territorial waters. The British suspect that the Russians were holding a target practice. The Defender is mentioned in the Russian media as the main intruder. Still, that naval vessel was in reports accompanied by the air defence and command frigate Evertsen of the Royal Navy.
The Defender is reported to have sailed 3 kilometres into Russian coastal waters at Cape Fiolent, approximately 13 kilometres south of Sevastopol. According to information from the Dutch Ministry of Defense, the Defender is sailing to the Far East and a group of naval vessels, including the frigate Evertsen.
Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula has been one of the oldest and most influential Russian naval ports since the end of the eighteenth century. In 1954, the then leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, decided to annex Crimea to Ukraine. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea remained with Ukraine.
In 2014, a pro-Russian president was ousted in Kyiv, and pro-Western and pro-Russian Ukrainians continued to mount. Russia saw an opportunity in the crisis to regain Crimea and annexed the peninsula. But for most countries, Crimea, with its coastal waters, is Ukrainian.