HMS Defender
© REUTERS / Sergey Smolentsev
British Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender arrives at the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine
A Russian patrol ship and fighter jet have fired warning shots after the British destroyer HMS Defender violated the country's border in the Black Sea. The UK embassy's defense attaché has been summoned by officials in Moscow.

According to Russia's Ministry of Defense, the British naval ship entered the country's territorial waters at 11:52am local time and traveled 3km inside the frontier, near Cape Fiolent, in Crimea. The peninsula is not recognized by the United Kingdom as Russian land and London believes it to be illegally occupied Ukrainian territory.

"At 12:06 and 12:08, a border patrol ship fired warning shots," the Defense Ministry said. "(And) at 12:19, a Su-24m aircraft performed a warning bombing (4 OFAB-250) ahead of the course of the USS Defender."

Four minutes later, at 12:23, the destroyer left Russian territory.


Shortly before the Defense Ministry publicised the incident, Russia's top army chief Valery Gerasimov told a Moscow security conference that NATO naval activity near the Russia's borders had "significantly increased".

"Ships equipped with high-precision long-range missile weapons operate almost on a permanent basis in the Black and Baltic Seas," he said, calling the actions "clearly provocative."

Russian Senator Sergei Tsekov, in comments to RIA Novosti, decried the warship's movements as a "flagrant violation of international norms," noting that the actions could "provoke a serious conflict."

The HMS Defender is an air-defence destroyer, launched in 2009. Designed primarily for anti-aircraft and anti-missile warfare, it is currently conducting missions in the Black Sea. Before the recent incident, the ship was docked in the Ukrainian port of Odessa, where it played host to a signing ceremony, attended by British Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin and Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Alexander Mironyuk. London and Kiev agreed a deal for the UK to supply warships to Ukraine, and with the British also pledging to help the country construct Black Sea naval bases.

Following the incident, Britain's Ministry of Defence denied that any warning shots were fired at the HMS Defender, claiming that the vessel is conducting "innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law," and the Russian shots were part of a pre-planned gunnery exercise.

"No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path," the statement said.