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World was not on the brink of world war in incident off Crimea, says Putin

A new war wouldn’t make Russia happy either, the president added

MOSCOW, June 30./TASS/. A World War would not have started even if Russia had sunk the British destroyer off Crimea, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

"You said the world teetered on the brink of a world war. No, of course not. Even if we had sunk that ship, it would still be difficult to imagine that this would have put the world on the brink of WWIII, since those who are doing this, they know that they cannot emerge victorious from this war," the president said in the annual Direct Line with Vladimir Putin program.

A new war wouldn’t make Russia happy either, the president added. "But we at least know what we are fighting for. We are fighting on our territory for ourselves, for our future," the president stressed.

Focusing on the political component of the incident with the HMS Defender, Putin noted that a few days ahead of it he had met with US President Joe Biden in Geneva. "The question is - why was it necessary to stage such a provocation? What was this all done for? For the sake of emphasizing that these people don’t respect the choice of the Crimean people to join the Russian Federation, that they don’t recognize something there? Well, okay, carry on with not recognizing this. But why stage such provocations?" the president asked.

In response to the cessation of Russian military exercises near Ukraine's borders, Western countries showed up on Russia's borders, he went on to say. "It was not us coming to them from thousands of kilometers away, flying or sailing. It was them who approached our borders and violated our territorial sea, and this is an essential element in all that construction," Putin stressed.

"Look, first, there was a big fuss over our exercises we were holding near the Ukrainian borders. I issued instructions to the Defense Ministry to gradually curtail them and pull the troops back, if somebody finds them worrisome," Putin said in the annual Direct Line with Vladimir Putin program on Wednesday. But instead of reacting to this positively and saying: "Good, we have seen your response to our anger," what did they do? They showed up on our borders," Putin said.

On June 23, the Russian defense ministry said that the Black Sea Fleet and the Federal Security Service (FSB) border guard service thwarted a violation of the Russian border by HMS Defender off Crimea’s Cape Fiolent. The destroyer reportedly traveled three kilometers into Russia’s territorial waters. A coastal guard ship fired warning shots, followed by several bombs dropped from a Su-24M plane ahead of the Defender, after which the destroyer left Russia’s territorial waters. The Russian defense ministry described 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.