Tension has escalated between the UK and Russia over an incident involving a British warship and Russian forces in the Black Sea.
The incident occurred two days ago when Russia said it fired warning shots at a British navy destroyer in the Black Sea after it violated its territorial waters.
The HMS Defender “was given a preliminary warning that weapons would be used if the state borders of the Russian Federation were violated. It did not react to the warning,” the Russian defence ministry said, as quoted by the Interfax news agency.
However, the UK strongly denied the Russian account of events.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Thursday HMS Defender was acting legally in international waters and described the vessel’s route as “wholly appropriate”.
“The important point is that we don’t recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea,” he said. “These are Ukrainian waters and it was entirely right to use them to go from A to B.”
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also slammed Moscow, saying “no shots were fired at HMS Defender.”
“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.”
For his part, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba considered the incident as an “aggressive and provocative” attack by Russia in the Black Sea and nearby Azov Sea, saying Russia is a “continuous threat to Ukraine and its allies”.
As a protest, the Russian foreign ministry summoned the UK Ambassador to the country and accused the UK of telling “barefaced lies”.
The incident took place as EU countries seek to hold an EU-Russian summit to boost coordination between the two parties.
The EU-Russian relations have witnessed a setback over several issues, mainly Kremlin-orchestrated cyber-attacks and election interference, the frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine, and the poisoning and jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the EU has imposed a set of tight sanctions on Russia.
Russia’s Putin responded positively to the suggestion and expressed willingness to participate in the planned summit.