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Russia says warning shots fired at British ship; London says it didn't happen

By
Zarrin Ahmed
The Royal Navy warship HMS Defender is seen off the coast of Scotland on May 19, 2019. The Russian military said Wednesday it had to fire warning shots at the vessel because it veered too close to territorial waters. File Photo by Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright/EPA-EFE
The Royal Navy warship HMS Defender is seen off the coast of Scotland on May 19, 2019. The Russian military said Wednesday it had to fire warning shots at the vessel because it veered too close to territorial waters. File Photo by Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright/EPA-EFE

June 23 (UPI) -- In response to what the Russian military said was a border violation in the Black Sea, Moscow said Wednesday a Russian fighter jet and border guard ship fired warning shots at a British warship -- a claim that London denies.

Moscow says warning shots from a patrol ship were fired near Britain's HMS Defender and the fighter dropped four bombs to keep it away from Russian territorial waters.

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Russian officials said the British ship left the area a few minutes later.

British officials, however, said no warning shots were fired and insisted the ship was crossing Ukrainian waters.

"The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law," Britain's defense ministry tweeted.

British officials said they'd already been made aware of a Russian gunnery exercise in the area.

Moscow says the British warship didn't respond to a warning against entering Russian territorial waters near Crimea, which Russia controversially annexed in 2014, state-run news agency Tass reported.

The dispute Wednesday came just days before next week's Sea Breeze 2021 naval exercises in the Black Sea, which will involve more than 5,000 troops and dozens of U.S. and Ukrainian ships and aircraft. The annual exercises have been staged since 1997.

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