VIDEO: Moment Russian warship opens fire towards HMS Defender

‘Fire warning shots!’: Moment Russian warship opens fire towards HMS Defender is released on video by Putin’s regime as British Ambassador is summoned for telling off over Black Sea skirmish

  • British warship insists it is on an established sea route in international waters 
  • In Russian there is a command to shoot – but also to miss, saying: ‘No hitting it’
  • Clip released over a day after Russia first made claim that it had shot at the ship
  • It follows Russia summoning UK’s ambassador in Moscow for a ‘tough demarche’

This is the moment a Russian warship opens fire towards HMS Defender in a video released by Vladimir Putin’s regime today.

Footage shows lengthy negotiations in English between the coast guard vessel and the large destroyer during the air and sea skirmish in the Black Sea.

The British warship repeatedly insists it is on an established sea route in international waters. In Russian there is a command to shoot – but also to miss.

The clip’s release follows Russia summoning the UK’s ambassador in Moscow, Deborah Bronnert, for a formal telling off as relations between the two nations continued to deteriorate.

In the video released by Putin’s regime, three shots each with two shells are seen fired as warning shots, by which time HMS Defender is visible but at a long distance away

Footage shows lengthy negotiations in English between the coast guard vessel and the large destroyer. In Russian there is a command to shoot – but also to miss

In the video taken from the patrol boat, a person can be heard saying in Russian: ‘Fire warning shots! Fire warning shots! Over.

‘Along the course of Defender. Along the course of Defender. No hitting it, no hitting Defender, did you get me? Over.’

Three shots each with two shells are fired as warning shots, by which time the warship is visible but at a long distance away.

The footage was released more than a day after Russia first made the claim that it had shot at the vessel and dropped four bombs from an Su-24M as warnings. 

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Ms Bronnert today in order to deliver a ‘tough demarche’ – a diplomatic term for a firm rebuke. 

It came as Boris Johnson borrowed a page out of Putin’s playbook by joining the British Army for land and air manoeuvres before declaring the Royal Navy will not be dictated to by Moscow following yesterday’s incident. 

As Russian officials promised to bomb any ship unlawfully in Crimean waters, the PM said it was ‘entirely right’ for HMS Defender to have been travelling close to the peninsula because the UK does not recognise Russia’s ‘illegal’ claim to the territory.

Mr Johnson dodged the question of whether he had personally authorised the Royal Navy destroyer to use the route but insisted that British ships would make the same journey again if needed, despite Russian threats.

In the video taken from the patrol boat, a person can be heard saying in Russian: ‘Fire warning shots! Fire warning shots! Over. Along the course of Defender. Along the course of Defender. No hitting it, no hitting Defender, did you get me? Over’

The warship is visible but at a long distance away. The clip’s release follows Russia summoning the UK’s ambassador in Moscow for a formal telling off today

Mr Putin’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov warned against ‘provocative steps’ and vowed that Russia will bomb any ships who ‘violate the state borders of the Russian Federation’.

Moscow claimed it fired warning shots at the destroyer as it passed through the contested part of the Black Sea but that assertion was dismissed by the UK which said Russia was conducting a routine ‘gunnery exercise’.

Russia subsequently accused the UK of telling ‘barefaced lies’ about what had happened but Mr Johnson struck a defiant tone as he hit back and said: ‘Well, they’re the bear.’

Earlier, the Environment Secretary George Eustice had hinted that he believed Russia’s claim of British aggression was a stunt, with Moscow trying to paint a regular military exercise as something more significant.

And Defence Secretary Ben Wallace rubbished the claim of shots being directed at the ship, telling MPs: ‘At no point were warning shots fired at HMS Defender, nor bombs dropped in her path as has been asserted by the Russian authorities.’ 

UK Ambassador to Russia, Deborah Bronnert, pictured above. She was summoned to Moscow for a ‘tough demarche’ – a diplomatic term for a firm rebuke

Boris Johnson, pictured boarding a helicopter in London today to travel to an Army base in Aldershot, insisted Britain had every right to sail close to Crimea

Mr Johnson is seen behind the wheel of an armoured vehicle complete with a machine gun belonging to Britain’s the new Ranger Regiment during a visit to mark Armed Forces Week at the Aldershot Garrison in Aldershot

Mr Johnson said: ‘I think it was wholly appropriate to use international waters. This is part of sovereign Ukrainian territory, it was entirely right that we should vindicate the law and pursue freedom of navigation in the way that we did, take the shortest route between two points, and that’s what we did.’ 

He added: ‘We don’t recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea, it was illegal, these are Ukrainian waters and it was entirely right to use them to go from A to B.’

The PM spoke out on visit to New Normandy Barracks in Aldershot, where he addressed soldiers, drove an armoured vehicle complete with machine gun before jumping into a helicopter in aviation gear for the flight back to London.

Mr Putin is well known for building his own hard man image by posing with his own Armed Forces. The former KGB chief is commonly pictured with his shirt off – sometimes fishing, holding a gun or riding on horseback – and won Russia’s sexiest man award again in April.

HMS Defender was passing through the Black Sea around 12 miles from the Crimean city of Sevastopol as part of an exercise also involving a Dutch frigate having just left the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I think it was very important for the carrier strike group to do what they’re going to do around the world, in partnership with 40 other countries on manoeuvres, sticking up for our values, sticking up for what we believe in. That includes democracy, human rights, equalities, but also the rule of law and freedom of navigation. We don’t recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea, it was illegal’.

Won by conquest, given away as a ‘gift’, now occupied by force: Russia’s history in Crimea and the Black Sea

Prince Grigory Potemkin, who established the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea in 1783

The Black Sea – and the Crimean peninsula which juts into it – are a strategic crossroads between Europe, the Middle East and Asia which has been contested by Empires and nations for centuries.

The sea itself contains vital trading routes, is bordered by five of Russia’s near-neighbours, and today hosts vital energy pipelines and fibre optic cables.

For Russia to assert power in the waters, control of Crimea – which contains its main Black Sea port at Sevastopol and controls the Kerch Strait leading to the nearby Sea of Azov – is essential. 

Crimea has, at one time or another, come under the control of the Greeks, Persians, Romans, Mongols, Ottomans.

It was not until 1783 that it fell fully under the control of the Russian Empire when Russian generals Alexander Suvorov and Mikhail Kamensky led a force of 8,000 men to victory against an Ottoman army of 40,000 at the the Battle of Kozludzha.

Russia’s Prince Grigory Potemkin quickly established the Russian Black Sea Fleet at the port of Sevastopol, from where he asserted naval power over the Black Sea, it neighbours including Georgia, Ukraine and Turkey, and projected power further into the Mediterranean.

Crimea also turned into a key trading post. On the eve of World War 1 in 1914 – some 50 per cent of all Russia’s exports and a full 90 per cent of its agricultural exports passed through Bosphorus Strait which leads out of the Black Sea. 

In 1954 Crimea was given as a ‘gift’ by Nikita Khrushchev to Ukraine, ostensibly to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s merger with Tsarist Russia, but more likely to secure Ukraine’s support for Khrushchev’s leadership and to cement Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union.

Because Ukraine was then part of the Union, Moscow maintained control over Crimea and its vital ports – at least until 1991 when the union collapsed and Ukraine became and independent county.

Following Ukraine’s independence, access to the peninsula became a bargaining chip between the two nations, with Ukraine recognising Russia’s right to the port at Sevastopol in return for concessions such as writing off debts and taking control of part of the Black Sea fleet.

But in 2014, the pro-Moscow government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in a popular uprising that wanted to draw the country closer to Europe.

Fearing the loss of the port at Sevastopol, Putin marched troops into Crimea and seized control of it – later holding a ‘referendum’ which showed majority support for the region to become part of Russia, though the result is viewed as far from credible.

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.

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