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Russia claims to have fired warning shots at a British warship near Crimea

MOSCOW — The Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Wednesday that a Russian naval vessel fired warning shots at a British destroyer near Crimea in the Black Sea, and that a Russian fighter jet dropped bombs in the destroyer’s path after it entered Russian waters, claims that Britain quickly denied.

“We believe the Russians were conducting a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided prior notice of their activity,” the British Ministry of Defense said of the incident involving the destroyer Defender. “No shots were fired at the H.M.S. Defender, and we reject the claim that bombs were dropped in her path.”

That account contrasted sharply with the one provided by Russia’s Defense Ministry, which stated that the British ship had ventured nearly two miles into Russian territorial waters and had retreated immediately after the alleged confrontation.

The standoff occurred near Cape Fiolent, near the port city of Sevastopol, where Russia maintains a large naval base, according to the ministry.

“The destroyer had been warned that if it crossed the Russian border, weapons would be used,” the ministry said in a statement.

Britain also denied Russia’s claim, claiming that the ship was taking part in NATO exercises at the time.

“The Royal Navy ship is passing through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law,” the ministry said in a Twitter statement.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, prompting international condemnation and sanctions. Since then, the area around the Black Sea peninsula has become a flashpoint for military clashes between Russia, Ukraine, and NATO members.

Russia sparked fears in April by amassing tens of thousands of troops on its border with eastern Ukraine. After a few weeks, it withdrew the majority of the forces, claiming they were just practising. By then, it had elicited an invitation from President Biden for a summit meeting, which analysts said had been President Vladimir V. Putin’s clear goal from the start.

Russia has conducted numerous threatening overflights near NATO airspace in northern Europe. NATO scrambled fighter planes ten times in six hours in March to intercept Russian planes that it said were flying near alliance airspace in the North Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Black Sea.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kyleba, issued a statement on Wednesday in response to reports of Russian actions in the Black Sea, calling Russia’s actions in the Black Sea routinely “aggressive and provocative,” adding that Russia’s “militarization of Crimea poses a long-term threat to Ukraine.”

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