Russia Warns West 'We Can Bomb' After Black Sea Spat With U.K Warship

Russia has warned that it could resort to bombing if its borders are not respected, as a dispute grows between Moscow and London over a Royal Navy destroyer in the Black Sea.

The comments by deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov came after the U.K dismissed Russia's claims that it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of HMS Defender as it sailed past Crimea to Georgia.

Moscow's Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that the British vessel had entered Russian waters within two miles of Cape Fiolent, on the Crimean coast.

The ministry said a border patrol ship had fired warning shots and an Su-24M aircraft had dropped warning bombs along the path of the vessel.

An eyewitness account by a BBC journalist on board Defender said the vessel had been harassed by Russia's military and buzzed by planes.

HMS Defender
HMS Defender, seen on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2019. The Royal Navy vessel is at the center of a spat between Russia and the U.K. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

On Thursday, Ryabkov warned against "provocative steps" that countries might carry out "under the slogan of freedom of navigation," which he said were "violating the state border of the Russian Federation."

"The security of our country comes before everything," Ryabkov added in comments reported by Russian news agencies. "We can appeal to common sense, demand international law be respected and, if this does not help, we can bomb."

"Those who try to test our strength are taking great risks. I invite the Royal Navy to consider renaming this ship from Defender to Aggressor," he added.

On Wednesday, the U.K. Defense Ministry rejected Moscow's claims, insisting that no warning shots had been fired and saying in a statement: "We also do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path."

It said the Russians were carrying out "a gunnery exercise" near HMS Defender and had "provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity."

"The Royal Navy ship was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law," it added in a statement shared with Newsweek.

Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and the waters are not recognized internationally as Russian.

The U.K. environment secretary, George Eustice, said the journey on this route would be undertaken again because the British government does not accept the annexation of Crimea, Sky News reported.

Adding to the rancor between London and Moscow was the announcement by Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova that the British ambassador to Moscow was being summoned to the ministry.

She had earlier written on her Telegram channel: "Who is lying? The British Department of Defense? The British journalist from the BBC? Or the British Embassy in Moscow?

"There is an answer. This time, it's the the British Department of Defense and the British Embassy."

The spat comes amid increasing tensions between Russia and NATO, with Moscow expressing concern at the alliance Sea Breeze military drills starting next week in the Black Sea.

Newsweek has contacted the British and Russian defense ministries for further comment.