Putin taunts Boris as he claims sinking of HMS Defender unlikely to have led to WW3

Joe Biden 'did nothing' in summit with Putin says host

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He also claimed that Britain and America had deliberately provoked the incident in order to test Russia’s military response to incursions of its territorial waters near Crimea. Last Wednesday, the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer encountered Russian fighter jets and patrol boats after briefly sailing through territorial waters off the coast of the disputed territory. The Kremlin claimed its patrol boats had fired warning shots and that its planes had dropped four bombs in the path of the British destroyer.

The Royal Navy categorically denied the Russian account of the June 23 events.

During a live question and answer session on state television, the Russian supremo was asked whether the sinking of HMS Defender would have triggered World War Three.

“This was a provocation, of course,” Mr Putin replied.

“Even if we had sunk the British destroyer near Crimea it is unlikely that the world would have been on the verge of World War Three.”

Mr Putin went on to give further details of the incident, alleging the British vessel had worked in tandem with a US reconnaissance aircraft that had taken off from a NATO base in Crete, Greece.

HMS Defender had spent about an hour within the 12-mile limit off Cape Fiolent, as it made its way from the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa to Georgia.

The UK claims it was simply asserting navigation rights in the Black Sea in support of Ukraine, which lost control of the Crimea after it was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told reporters that HMS Defender had been carrying out a “routine transit” across the Black Sea using an “internationally recognised traffic separation corridor”.

Mr Putin saw political motives behind the incident, which took place shortly after his Geneva meeting with the US president Joe Biden.

“Why is all this being done? In order to emphasise that these people do not respect the choice of Crimeans to join the Russian Federation,” he said.

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The British Government views Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal, a position recently reemphasised by the Prime Minister.

Responding to questions about the HMS Defender incident, Boris Johnson told reporters last week that “the important point is that we don’t recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea”.

“This is part of sovereign Ukrainian territory,” he added.

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