MOSCOW – Russia on Friday accused Britain and the United States of trying to incite conflict in the Black Sea and said it would defend its borders by any means possible, including military force.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was speaking a day after Moscow warned Britain that it would bomb British warships in the Black Sea if what it called provocative actions by the British navy were to occur. repeated off the coast of Crimea annexed by Russia.
Russian news agency RIA quoted Ryabkov as saying that Washington and London were sowing conflict in the region by refusing to accept Crimea as part of Russia.
Russia considers the peninsula to be part of its territory. It annexed Crimea in 2014, but it is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.
“Washington and London deny the reality (…) they are trying to provoke a conflict,” he said. “These are Russian territorial waters, this is our border. I can confirm that we will defend it with all possible means, including military.”
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Russia said on Wednesday it fired warning shots and dropped bombs on the passage of a British warship to drive it out of the Black Sea waters off the coast of Crimea.
Britain has dismissed Russia’s account of the incident. He said he believed all the shots fired were a pre-announced Russian “artillery exercise” and that no bomb was dropped.
He confirmed that a British destroyer, HMS Defender, had sailed in what he described as Ukrainian waters.
The British Embassy in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, wrote on Twitter on Friday that HMS Defender was due to arrive in the port city of Batumi on the eastern Black Sea coast.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said separately on Friday that it was starting joint naval and air force exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, where Moscow operates an air base on the Syrian coast.