HMS Defender: Moscow releases footage it says shows Navy vessel being chased out by Russian military

The Russian Defence Ministry has released footage it says shows HMS Defender being “chased out of Crimea waters” by military aircraft and vessels.

It comes as Britain dismissed Moscow’s claims that warning shots were fired at the Royal Navy destroyer and that bombs were dropped in the warship’s path.

The Russian Defence Ministry said a border patrol boat fired the shots at HMS Defender after it entered the country’s territorial waters in the Black Sea.

It also said that a Su-24M warplane dropped four bombs close to the ship.

But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the 152 metre-long, 8,500-tonne vessel was “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law”.

In a statement posted on Twitter, it said: “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.”

The confrontation is thought to have taken place near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on the coast of Crimea.

Sky’s Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay said: “I think what we were seeing here was the UK was trying to see what Russia would do if it passed through these waters which it says are theirs.

“But under international law, these waters are still Ukrainian waters because Crimea was annexed illegally in 2014 by Russia and therefore has no right over these waters.”

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 in a move condemned by the West, which still considers it Ukrainian territory.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement that the ship – whose Sea Viper missiles can destroy jets and drones from up to 70 miles away – “carried out a routine transit from Odessa towards Georgia across the Black Sea”.

He said: “As is normal for this route, she entered an internationally recognised traffic separation corridor. She exited that corridor safely at 0945 BST. As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity.”

Appearing later before the Commons Defence Committee, Mr Wallace said the crew of HMS Defender did hear “training noises” to the rear of the ship, but it was “beyond visual range”.

He said the Russians had previously made false claims to have “chased out” another British warship, HMS Dragon.

“These are the things that come and go with Russia. Disinformation, misinformation is something that we have seen regularly. We are not surprised by it,” he said.

“We plan for it and we take all steps to make sure we are not escalatory or provocative.

“However we will not shy away from upholding international law and our rights on the sea.”

Mr Wallace also confirmed that the British ambassador to Russia has been summoned by Moscow authorities.

The Russian ministry said earlier in a statement: “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.

“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.”

Sky News’ foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes said: “Even if the ship wasn’t directly fired at, as the Russian defence ministry is claiming, the fact that these exercises were taking place so close to a transiting Royal Navy ship is clearly going to be seen from the UK side as a provocation.”

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “It’s incorrect to say either that it was fired upon or that the ship was in Russian waters. HMS Defender was taking the most direct and internationally recognised route between Ukraine and Georgia.

“As you know, the UK does not recognise Russia’s claim to Crimea and we continue to uphold the international consensus that Russia’s annexation of Crimea is illegal.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the incident showed Russia’s aggressive and provocative policy that constituted a threat to Ukraine and its allies.

HMS Defender – one of six navy Type 45 destroyers – is part of the UK Carrier Strike Group currently heading to the Indo-Pacific region.

However, it was announced earlier this month that it would be temporarily breaking away from the group to carry out its “own set of missions” in the Black Sea.

The Royal Navy says HMS Defender – based out of Portsmouth and launched in 2009 – is “one of the most advanced warships ever constructed”.

Type 45 destroyers carry Sea Viper missiles, with the navy saying they can “can knock moving targets out of the sky from up to 70 miles away”.

The destroyers can fire eight missiles in less than 10 seconds and simultaneously guide up to 16 missiles at a time.

They also have conventional weaponry, such as the 4.5-inch Mark 8 gun and up to six machine guns.

The Su-24M warplane said to have dropped the bombs near HMS Defender is a 22-metre-long aircraft made by Russian firm Sukhoi, and first entered service in 1983.

It carries weaponry such as laser-guided bombs of up to 1,500kg, as well as laser-guided missiles.

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