By G9ija

Moscow has warned it will bomb foreign warships that stray into its waters and said Britain’s ambassador will be summoned to the Russian foreign ministry over Wednesday’s startling Black Sea confrontation.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the UK of lying as it played down the incident in which Russia said it fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of a Royal Navy destroyer that entered its territorial waters.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday said Russia’s account of the incident was “predictably inaccurate”, as Moscow released footage it said showed the HMS Defender being “chased out” of its waters.

File photo dated 20/03/2020 of HMS Defender, Russian forces fired warning shots at the Royal Navy destroyer after it entered the country?s territorial waters in the Black Sea, the Russian Defence Ministry has said. Issue date: Wednesday June 23, 2021. PA Photo. A border patrol boat fired warning shots at HMS Defender and a Su-24M warplane dropped four bombs close to the ship, the Defence Ministry said in a statement reported by the Russian Interfax news agency. See PA story DEFENCE Russia. Photo credit should read: Ben Mitchell/PA Wire

The BBC also released footage from the ship showing a Russian officer warning that he would shoot if the Defender did not change course.

“No shots were fired at HMS Defender,” Mr Raab said while in Singapore to discuss trade deals. “The Royal Navy ship was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters. We were doing so in accordance with international law and the Russian characterisation is predictably inaccurate.”

“Innocent passage” is an internationally recognised right for ships to sail through territorial waters of a country provided they mean no harm.

The Ministry of Defence on Wednesday denied that a Russian warship fired warning shots and that a fighter jet dropped bombs in the destroyer’s path off the coast of Crimea, saying Moscow was carrying out routine gunnery exercises.

“I don’t think there is anything in this particular event that people should get too carried away by,” Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky. “I don’t think there were warning shots, there was a gunnery exercise that was taking place, and it’s not uncommon for the Russians to do this in this area. The incident is not particularly abnormal in that sense.”

Russia said the British ship had ventured three km (two miles) into Russian waters near Cape Fiolent, on Crimea’s southern coast near the port of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov warned against such “provocative steps”, Tass news agency reported on Thursday. “What can we do?” he said. “We can appeal to common sense, demand respect for international law. If this does not help, we can bomb not only in the direction, but also on target.”

He said that Russia’s territorial integrity “inviolable” and “an absolute imperative”, adding, “we will stand guard over all this by diplomatic, political and, if necessary, military means.”

But Britain accused Russia of disinformation over the incident. “These are things that come and go with Russia; disinformation, misinformation is something that we have seen regularly,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said. “We are not surprised by it, we plan for it.”

Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and considers areas around its coast to be Russian. Western countries say the Crimea is part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the seas around it.

Jonathan Beale, a BBC journalist embedded on board the Defender, said that the operation was a “deliberate move”, and that the Defender entered Crimean territorial waters to  “defend a recognised international shipping lane.”

The reporter appeared to confirm that warning shots were fired by Russian coastguards, although out of range, contradicting the MoD’s take on the matter. He said that around 20 fighter jets were hovering above the British ship at one point.

“This was done to test Russian resolve over Crimea,” Mark Gray, a maritime security specialist and a retired colonel with Britain’s Royal Marines, told Reuters.

“Russia is trying to create facts on the ground and get them respected internationally, so that their annexation is in effect rubber-stamped by the world,” he said, comparing Moscow’s Black Sea claims to those of Beijing in the South China Sea, also rejected by the West.

“Nonetheless, the Russian response is extraordinarily robust, a tad undiplomatic and way over the top.”

ODESSA, UKRAINE JUNE 18, 2021: The British Royal Navys destroyer HMS Defender in the port of Odessa on Ukraines Black Sea coast. Konstantin Sazonchik/TASS (Photo by Konstantin Sazonchik\TASS via Getty Images)

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the incident showed that Russia’s “aggressive and provocative policies” in the Black Sea and nearby Azov Sea constituted a “continuous threat to Ukraine and its allies”. In a tweet, Mr Kuleba called for more cooperation between NATO and Ukraine in the Black Sea.

Alexander Molokhov, the lead on Crimea legal issues at the Russian presidential office, told Tass: “It goes without saying that it was a hostile act towards Russia and an encroachment on our territorial inviolability and maritime space. It was a provocation, reconnaissance in combat. I am very glad that despite the provocative actions our border guard forces displayed certain restraint and took no action that might escalate the conflict. It is true that warning shots were fired, and that was enough.”

He said that Russia’s response was strictly in line with international law.

“The use of weapons by Russia in its territory was totally justified from the standpoint of international law. I do hope that after such a punch there will be no more attempts to venture into our territory without permission,” he said.

Military sources and analysts suggest Russia may have wanted to counter a series of military actions and exercises by the UK, according to The Independent’s Kim Sengupta. He said the navy had been taking part in a Black Sea exercise with the US and Ukraine, and that the UK had clashed with Russia in Syria and the Middle East.