Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a fighter plane dropped bombs in the path of the British destroyer Defender on June 23 (AP).
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that a US reconnaissance plane was operating in sync with a British destroyer during last week’s Black Sea incident in what he described as a “provocation” to test Moscow’s response.
Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs in the path of the British destroyer Defender on June 23 to force it out of an area near the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Great Britain denied that version, insisted on their ship. he was not shot and said he was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
When asked if the incident could have triggered World War III, Putin said it was almost impossible even if Russia had sunk the British warship because Western powers knew they could not win in a global conflict.
Speaking during a live call show, Putin said the US plane’s apparent mission was to monitor the Russian army’s response to the British destroyer. He added that Moscow was aware of the US intentions and responded accordingly to avoid revealing sensitive data.
In Wednesday’s incident, Britain insisted the Defender had been making a routine trip through an internationally recognized travel lane and was staying in Ukrainian waters near Crimea. The UK, like most of the world, recognizes Crimea as part of Ukraine despite the annexation of the peninsula by Russia in 2014.
Russia denounced the Defender’s move as a provocation and warned that next time it could fire to hit the invading warships if they try again to test Russian military resolve.
In response to a question about Russia’s tug of war with Ukraine, Putin emphasized his long-standing claim to close kinship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, but accused the Ukrainian leadership of maintaining a hostile course toward Russia.
The Russian president spent most of the phone call marathon talking about domestic issues.
He expressed hope that the country can avoid a nationwide lockdown amid a surge in new infections. Putin argued that decisions by local authorities in various regions that made vaccination mandatory for some workers should help contain the new wave of infections and avoid a lockdown.
The “actions of our colleagues in certain regions are aimed at avoiding the need for a shutdown, when entire companies close and people are left without their jobs, without their salaries,” Putin said.
It also revealed that it chose Sputnik V, the domestically developed coronavirus vaccine that Russia hailed as the first in the world to be licensed for use, for its vaccination. Putin received his first coronavirus vaccine in late March out of the public eye, and he has remained tight-lipped on which of the three domestically developed vaccine available at the time he chose.
The Russian president said that he was not consulting with his doctors about this, but instead analyzed the decisions that his acquaintances made and opted for Sputnik V, as it provided the longest protection against the virus. He added that he did not initially name the vaccine he took to avoid offering an advantage to its manufacturer.
Russia granted regulatory approval to Spuntik V last August and it faced criticism both at home and abroad, as the vaccine had only been tested on a few dozen people at the time. However, the criticism has been mitigated by a report in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet this year that said large-scale tests showed it to be safe, with a 91 percent efficacy rate against the virus.
Russia has struggled to cope with a surge in infections and deaths in recent weeks that comes amid rather slow vaccination rates. Deaths from coronavirus in Russia hit a new daily record on Wednesday, with authorities reporting 669 new deaths.
Russia has recorded more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases and around 600 deaths every day since last Thursday. There were 21,042 new infections on Wednesday.