US aircraft was operating in sync with British ‘provocation’, Russian president claims
Speaking during a marathon live call-in show on Wednesday, Mr Putin said that the US aircraft’s mission was to monitor the Russian military’s response to the British destroyer.
“First of all it was a provocation, quite obviously," il a dit, according to a translation of his comments on the Russian state-backed RT channel.
“What were they trying to tell us? What goals were they trying to achieve? It was a complex provocation organised by the US and the British because a warship entered our waters during the day and then… an American warplane took off from somewhere in Greece.”
Mr Putin said HMS Defender “came into our waters and they looked at how we were going to respond” then “the [nous] plane was looking at how we were going to respond”.
The Russian president added: “I may have divulged a bit of a military secret there but I think our military is going to forgive me.”
Mr Putin said Moscow was aware of the US intentions and responded accordingly to avoid revealing sensitive data. “I don’t think we were on the brink of World War Three," il a dit.
Il ajouta: “There was also a political component. A meeting [with US President Joe Biden] had just taken place in Geneva. One must ask why it was necessary to carry out such a provocation.
“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.”
Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs in the path of British destroyer Defender on 23 June to force her away from Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Downing Street and Ministry of Defence (MoD) have denied that account – insisting its ship wasn’t fired upon. They claimed shots fired in the distance were part of a gunnery exercise.
The MoD also insisted the HMS Defender had been making a routine journey through an internationally recognised travel lane and remained in Ukrainian waters near Crimea.
The UK, like most of the world, recognises Crimea as part of Ukraine despite the peninsula’s annexation by Russia.
Russia denounced the HMS Defender’s move last as a provocation. The deputy foreign minister warned that next time it could fire to hit intruding warships if they again try to test Russian military resolve.