Who is to blame for the latest flare up in tensions between Russia and Britain in the Black Sea? Has the Doomsday Clock moved closer to doomsday?
Based on the latest news reports.
Abridged by Lasha Darkmoon,
BBC video added
British warship HMS Defender strays into disputed Russian waters.
Russia warns Britain: Do not provoke us again in Black Sea.
The Russian Viewpoint
Sourced from RT . . . but see also here
Russia has released a video showing a coast guard vessel warning the HMS Defender that it was violating its state border and firing warning shots at the British warship, challenging London’s assertions about Wednesday’s encounter.
The short clip, released on Thursday by Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB), shows the confrontation between a patrol ship and the ironically named Royal Navy destroyer that sailed past Cape Fiolent, near the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Wednesday.
“If you don’t change course to starboard, I will fire,” the coast guard vessel officer radioes the British destroyer, warning the warship it was about to violate Russian territorial waters.
Footage released by Moscow, this evening, appears to suggest Russia is telling the truth about yesterday’s Black Sea face-off, and the British are lying. In it, Russian forces repeatedly demand that the Brits leave their waters and, after several warnings, fire warning shots.
“You must immediately leave the territorial sea of Russian Federation,” comes the second warning. Then the captain is heard issuing the orders, in Russian. “Fire warning shots. DO NOT, repeat NOT hit the Defender. Confirm, over.”
Moscow has also claimed that at least one interceptor aircraft also dropped bombs onto the Defender’s course, careful not to hit the invading ship.
On Wednesday, London officially declared that “no warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender,” and the ship was simply “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”
The UK considers Crimea – a historically Russian peninsula that was reabsorbed by Moscow following a 2014 referendum – to be still part of Ukraine. The strategically vital region, which is overwhelmingly ethnically Russian, was signed over to Kiev, in 1954, while both countries were part of a union state. The move was made for both practical and symbolic reasons by Nikita Khrushchev, who had grown up in the Donbass.
The supposedly “innocent passage” was “a deliberate move to make a point to Russia,” according to Jonathan Beale, a BBC military correspondent who was on board the destroyer.
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The British Viewpoint
Sourced from The Daily Mail
Russian warplanes and armed coastguard vessels targeted a Royal Navy warship before opening fire yesterday.
A Daily Mail reporter was on board HMS Defender as repeated bursts of cannon fire rang out in a dramatic incident that opened up a fresh diplomatic crisis.
The Russian jets and ships menaced the UK destroyer after it entered disputed territorial waters off Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
After the coastguard vessel opened fire, British sailors frantically pulled on flame retardant suits and body armour amid fears that their warship could be hit. The hour-long incident represented the most alarming escalation of UK tensions with the Kremlin since the Salisbury poisonings of 2018.
Russia responded by summoning the British defence attache in Moscow. Its embassy in London accused the Royal Navy of an act of provocation and of violating its border.
Daily Mail reporter Mark Nichol (pictured), was on board HMS Defender when these events were taking place. His detailed report runs to several thousand words which have been drastically abridged for the Darkmoon site. The full report may be read in the Daily Mail, June 24, 2021, p.1, 4-7.
The angry thud of cannon fire rings out on the port side of HMS Defender as I crouch beside the bridge in my hastily adorned flame retardant gloves and balaclava.
We are being pursued furiously by a pair of Russian coastguard vessels while, every couple of minutes, Russian jets pass thunderously overhead.
The deafening roar of supersonic aircraft filling my ears is an unsettling, yet enthralling, experience.
Wars have started over less.
The drama began about an hour ago as we approached Crimean territorial waters to carry out what the Royal Navy calls a freedom of navigation patrol.
Russia does not like these patrols because it regards the waters off the peninsula as its territory – while the UK, as an ally of Ukraine, maintains these are Ukrainian waters.
I was inside the destroyer’s cool, dimly-lit operations room when the Russian radio operator issued the first of his warnings:
“Change your course!”
Minute by minute, the tension mounts.
While today’s passage is entirely legitimate, and justified under UN charters and international shipping conventions, there is no doubt that we are poking the Russian bear.
The Daily Mail report continues:
[The Russians are] back on the radio and this time the warnings are pretty threatening: ‘Delta 36, do not cross the border or I fire! Change your course! If you cross, I fire! Your ship is entering the territory of the Russian Federation. We do not take responsibility if you are damaged. We are engaging in a military exercise in this area.’
The introduction of the apparent military exercise seems a convenient ruse intended to dissuade Defender from entering what it regards as Russian waters.
More Russian jets conduct thunderous passes on our port and starboard and the operations officer is sufficiently concerned to order the crew to put on ‘anti-flash’ balaclavas and gloves.
Only the Russian sailors know for certain who they were firing at. But given their exasperation at being unable to persuade Defender to change its course, we were a likely target, albeit we were out of range.
The Royal Navy was entirely justified in sailing along an internationally recognised shipping route. But we definitely poked the Russian bear and she poked back. The next time a British warship enters Crimean waters the tension will be even higher.
While Britain considers these waters Ukrainian, Russia regards the peninsula as its territory, which its ships and aircraft are entitled to defend, aggressively if necessary.
Yesterday’s incident also came just days after President Putin’s abruptly terminated summit with US President Joe Biden which ended after barely three hours of talks and no agreement on Crimea or other security issues.
Daily Mail reporter EDWARD LUCAS adds:
We’re paying the price for years of blind complacency.
Vladimir Putin’s regime feeds on conflict. It systematically bullies its neighbours, while hypocritically denouncing anyone who resists it as an aggressor. More than anything, it knows how to wield the element of surprise.
The feints and wargames could yet escalate into a terrifying east-west confrontation. Will that happen? Much depends on how Joe Biden responds to Putin.
Washington has been increasingly disappointed with its bickering and feckless European allies: France and Germany have just announced plans to restart EU-Russia summits, jeopardising the united front embodied in Nato.
Some wonder if America really has the stomach for any kind of confrontation with Russia. But make no mistake: to ignore Putin and his sabre-rattling would spell disaster for Britain and her allies, particularly the brave frontline states in eastern Europe that have entrusted their future to us and Nato.
Today, Moscow is in control of the peninsula and refers to it as part of its territory, though most world bodies refer to the region as ‘occupied Crimea’.
The Black Sea Fleet remains one of Russia’s largest and most formidable, thought to comprise a total of 47 ships, seven submarines and 25,000 troops, mostly marines.
The Daily Mail, June 24, 2021, p.1 & pp. 4-7; see also here
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