LONDON, June 24. /TASS/. The HMS Defender incident near the Crimean coast was a provocation, which was possibly aimed to worsen the relations between Russia and the West, Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin told journalists Thursday.
"We are talking about a deliberate and intentional provocation, carried out by the British. It is also clear what was its goal. I would like to point out that similar incidents took place before, exactly at a moment when some, even the slightest, improvement of relations between Russia and the West was on the horizon," the diplomat said.
Kelin mentioned a similar incident with HMS Dragon, a Royal Navy destroyer that "committed similar actions, approaching Sevastopol at a certain distance" in October last year.
"That time, the [British] Defense Attache was summoned. He was told that this was a violation of the Russian and international law regarding innocent passage. The Defense Attache was warned that such things must not happen again. And, if they do, our reactions would be much harder," the envoy pointed out.
The envoy noted that both the UK Ministry of Defense and the British media emphasized the position of non-recognition of Crimea as a Russian territory.
"As for disagreements, the British uphold their version. It is mainly based on their non-recognition of Crimea. But one must understand that there is the political position, and then there is the real one. Such things can result only in a major military incident," he said, answering a question why conflicting information was coming from London regarding the incident.
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that the Black Sea Fleet and the Federal Security Service border control service thwarted a violation of the Russian border by HMS Defender near Crimea’s Cape Fiolent. The destroyer reportedly traveled 3 kilometers into Russia’s territorial waters. A guard ship fired warning shots, followed by several bombs, dropped from a Su-24M plane ahead of the Defender, after which the destroyer left Russian waters. The Russian Defense Ministry viewed the destroyer’s actions as a blatant violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and called on London to investigate the actions of the crew.
London claims that the destroyer was conducting an "innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters." According to London, the Russian military did not fire any shots at the destroyer, but conducted "practice firing.".