Russia accused of threatening Dutch warship on patrol with Britain's HMS Defender

·2-min read

Dutch authorities say Russian fighter jets armed with air-to-surface missiles threatened one of their navy ships in the Black Sea.

The Dutch Defence Ministry said Russian fighter jets repeatedly flew low over the ship and carried out "mock attacks" off the coast of Crimea last week.

The Dutch ship Evertsen had been patrolling the area alongside HMS Defender.

Russia said the British ship was forced to flee the area last week after their warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs.

Britain has denied that account and insisted the ship wasn't fired upon.

Dutch defence minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten called the Russian actions against the Evertsen "irresponsible."

"Evertsen has every right to sail there," she said. "There is no justification whatsoever for this kind of aggressive act, which also unnecessarily increases the chance of accidents."

She said the Netherlands would speak to Russia about the incident.

The ministry said that the Russian jets, armed with bombs and air-to-surface rockets, flew past the frigate between 3.30pm and 8.30pm on Thursday and were followed by "disruptions to the Evertsen's electronic equipment".

Russia's defence ministry said its fighter jets and bombers flew safely near the Dutch ship, according to state agency Interfax.

The HMS Defender incident last Wednesday prompted a political war of words.

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Boris Johnson insisted the Royal Navy was sailing legally in Ukrainian waters and that Russia did not any fire warning shots.

But Russia accused the UK of "barefaced lies" and said it would respond robustly to any future incursions into what it says are Russian waters.

Meanwhile, sensitive defence documents containing details about the ship and the military have reportedly been found by a member of the public at a bus stop in Kent.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 - a move not recognized by most countries.

Russia has criticised NATO warships visiting the region and in April it declared a broader area off Crimea closed to foreign naval ships.

In April, Russia imposed restrictions on foreign naval movements near Crimea until November in a move that drew strong complaints from Ukraine and the West.

Russia rejected the criticism and noted the restrictions wouldn't interfere with commercial shipping.

Earlier this year, Russia also bolstered its troops near the border with Ukraine and warned Kyiv against using force to reclaim control of the country's eastern industrial heartland, where a conflict with Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 14,000 people in seven years.

Moscow withdrew some of its forces after manoeuvres, but Ukrainian officials say many of them remain.

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