HMS Defender of the British Navy entered the territorial waters of Russia on June 23. Russian border guards opened warning fire on the British destroyer.
Russia found the actions of the British destroyer a deliberate provocation. Because of the incident with the destroyer, the Russian Defense Ministry summoned the military attaché of the British Embassy.
Senator Alexei Pushkov stated that the destroyer violated the border in an attempt to provoke Russia:
“What was the British destroyer doing there in our territorial waters, at Cape Fiolent in the Black Sea? Was she defending the security of the UK? Of course not. Britain, as you know, lies in completely different waters. Was she demonstrating the Union Jack of the former queen of the seas? The UK has not been the queen for a very long time now."
First vice-speaker of the Crimean parliament, Efim Fiks, stated that the destroyer could not cross the border by mistake. He called on Western countries to abide by existing treaties.
Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces said during the Moscow Conference on International Security that NATO warships regularly stage provocations in the waters of the Black and Baltic Seas.
The fact of the violation of the Russian border by the British destroyer near the Crimean peninsula was shown from space. The image, obtained by the European Earth observation satellite Sentinel-2, was shown on Twitter. According to the satellite image, HMS Defender approached the Crimean coast at a distance of less than 20 kilometers.
The UK called the incident with HMS Defender "an innocent passage though the Ukrainian waters." The British Ministry of Defence denied information about the Russian side opening warning fire on HSM Destroyer.
"We believe that Russia conducted artillery fire exercises in the Black Sea and warned the maritime community in advance about its activities. The Royal Navy ship Defender was not fired at, and we do not accept the allegations that bombs were dropped on the destroyer's path,” the report said.
Ben Wallace, UK's Secretary of State for Defence, said that the British destroyer was traveling along an internationally recognized corridor from Ukraine to Georgia and passed it "safe and sound" at 11:45 Moscow time.
At the same time, a BBC News journalist, who was allegedly on board the destroyer at the time when the incident occurred, denied the reports from the British Ministry of Defense which said that Russia had not fired warning shots at the British destroyer. According to the journalist, about 20 Russian aircraft flew over the ship, and the sounds of the volleys were clearly audible. The journalist also confirmed that the British ship deliberately entered the territorial waters of the Russian Federation.
The British destroyer entered the Black Sea on 18 June. She arrived at the port of Odessa together with the Dutch Navy frigate HNLMS Evertsen F805. Details of the visit of the warships were not disclosed.
Both the UK and the Netherlands are NATO members, and the purpose of the visit of their warships to the Black Sea could be Sea Breeze 2021 naval exercises. They will be held from June 28 to July 10 in the Black Sea, near Odessa and Ochakov. The main participants in the exercises are Ukraine, USA, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Latvia and other partner countries.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Ruslan Khomchak previously announced that the upcoming exercises would be the largest since 1997. “About 30 ships, boats and vessels, up to 30 aircraft and helicopters, up to three thousand personnel and 50 units of weapons and military hardware will be involved in the exercises,” Khomchak said.
The main purpose of Sea Breeze 2021 manoeuvres is to train officers to plan missions in accordance with NATO standards.
"The Royal Navy will always uphold international law and will not accept unlawful interference with innocent passage," Defence Minister Ben Wallace said in the statement.
Russia has urged not to conduct naval exercises near its borders. Naval manoeuvres can only increase the risks of unintentional incidents and provoke Ukrainian aggression, representatives of the Russian Embassy in the USA said.
On the contrary, Ukraine is strongly determined to strengthen cooperation with NATO countries. Ukraine's Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Alexei Danilov said Moscow wanted "to turn the Black Sea into its inner lake."
The British Ministry of Defence warned about the possibility of naval manoeuvres off the coast of the Crimea, adding that Russia's annexation of Crimea was illegitimate.