Russia says it fired warning shots and dropped bombs to drive away a UK destroyer in the Black Sea, but the UK is denying it

Russia says it fired warning shots and dropped bombs to drive away a UK destroyer in the Black Sea, but the UK is denying it
The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender was reportedly in a stand-off with Russian Forces in the Black Sea Wednesday. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
  • Russia says its forces confronted a UK destroyer in the Black Sea on Wednesday.
  • To drive away the ship, a Russian vessel reportedly fired warning ships while an attack aircraft dropped bombs.
  • The UK disputes this and says no shots were fired and no bombs were dropped in the path of its ship.

Russia's defense ministry says that the country's forces had a showdown with the British Royal Navy near Crimea in the Black Sea on Wednesday, but the UK's defense ministry says it didn't happen.

The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the British destroyer HMS Defender sailed into Russian territorial waters in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, the ministry-run Zvezda TV reported. The Russian defense ministry claimed the warship sailed as far as 3 kilometers (just under 2 miles) into Russian waters, Reuters reported, citing Interfax.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula seven years ago in a move that was condemned internationally. Many countries, including the UK, do not recognize Russian claims.

The British defense ministry said the Royal Navy ship was "conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law."

Russia said that the destroyer was warned that its forces would use weapons if it crossed into Russian waters, but the destroyer reportedly ignored those warnings and did not take steps to change course.


In response, an unidentified Russian warship reportedly fired warning shots, and a Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft dropped OFAB-250 high-explosive fragmentation bombs in the path of the Royal Navy destroyer.

If this incident played out the way Russia described, it would have been the first time since the Cold War live fire has been used to deter a NATO warship, the Associated Press reported. But, the UK is disputing these claims.

The British Ministry of Defense countered the Russian narrative saying that "no warning shots have been fired at the HMS Defender." It explained in a statement that it is believed "the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea," adding that prior warning was given.

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

In a separate statement, UK Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace said that HMS Defender "carried out a routine transit from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea" and "s is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage." There was no mention of any confrontation.


Update: This article has been updated with statements from the UK Ministry of Defense.