A Russian warship fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs Wednesday to force a British destroyer from an area in the Black Sea near Crimea that Russia claims as its territorial waters.
The incident marked the first time since the Cold War that Moscow has used live ammunition to deter a NATO warship, reflecting growing risks of military incidents amid soaring Russia-West tensions.
The Russian Defence Ministry said the Russian 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 four bombs ahead of the British ship to persuade it to change course. Minutes later, the British warship left the Russian waters, the ministry said.
The Russian Defence Ministry said it has summoned the UK military attache in Moscow to protest the British destroyer’s maneuver.
The UK Ministry of Defence did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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.
In April, Russia imposed restrictions on foreign navy ships' movements near Crimea until November in a move that drew strong complaints from Ukraine and the West. Russia has rejected that criticism and noted that the restrictions wouldn’t interfere with commercial shipping.
Earlier this year, Russia also beefed up its troops near the border with Ukraine and warned Ukrainian authorities against using force to reclaim control of the country's east, where a conflict with Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 14,000 people in seven years. Moscow withdrew some of its forces after sweeping maneuvers, but Ukrainian officials say that the bulk of them have remained.