Vladimir Putin discusses possibility of third world war
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Tensions between Moscow and London soared last Wednesday after Russia challenged the right for the presence of the UK’s huge ship in waters near the Russian-annexed Crimea, something Britain said it had every right to do. Russia claimed it had fired shots and dropped bombs in the path of HMS Defender, which had been en-route from the Ukraine to Georgia. Britain hit back at those claims and insisted it did not recognise that account of the events.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a warning to Boris Johnson and the UK, adding to earlier warnings from Moscow it would bomb British naval vessels in the Black Sea in the event of further provocative actions near Crimea.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2004, but Britain and several other global superpowers recognise the Black Sea peninsula as part of Ukraine, not Russia.
Speaking during his annual question and answer session with voters, Mr Putin was asked if the world has stood on the edge of World War 3 during the intense standoff with HMS Defender, he replied: “Of course not.
“Even if we had sunk the ship it is hard to imagine that the world would have been on the verge of World War Three because those doing it (the provocation) know that they could not emerge as victors from such a war.”
Mr Putin has continued to insist Russia will take a strong stance on defending what it believes to be its own territory.
But the UK Government has hit back at the claims from Russia, insisting HMS Defender acted in accordance with with international law and was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “I’ve said all along this Royal Navy ship was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”
During his annual call, the Russian leader accused the US and Britain of joining forces to plan the episode, claiming a US spy plane had left Greece that same day to monitor how Russia would respond to the British warship.
He said: “It was obvious that the destroyer entered (the waters near Crimea) pursuing, first of all, military goals, trying to use the spy plane to see how our forces would stop such provocations, to see what is activated and where, how things work and where everything is located.”
Mr Putin went onto further lash out at the US, with the tense standoff taking place just days after he met President Joe Biden in Geneva.
He added: “The meeting in Geneva had just happened, so why was this provocation needed, what was its goal? To underscore that those people (the Americans and British) do not respect Crimeans’ choice to join the Russian Federation,”
The Russian President also accused the UK and US of a gratitude, after explaining he had ordered Russian forces to pull back from near Ukraine’s borders after their present had generated fears in the West of a new conflict.
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Mr Putin said: “We did this, but instead of reacting positively to this and saying ‘OK, we’ve understood your response to our grumbling’.
“Instead of that, what did they do? They barged across our borders.”
The latest comments from the Russian President comes after the Dutch navy said one of its own frigates had been “repeatedly harassed” in a standoff with Russian fighter jets – just a day after the clash with the UK.
The navy’s its De Zeven Provincien class frigate HNLMS Evertsen, which has been sailing with HMS Defender, had been watched closely by Russian fighters last Thursday.
The Royal Netherlands Navy said in a statement: “The planes repeatedly harassed the Evertsen between about 3.30pm and 8.30pm local time.
“They flew dangerously low and close by, performing feint attacks.
“The fighters were armed with bombs and so-called air-to-surface missiles, intended to fire at a target from the air.
“After hours of intimidation, disruptions to electronic equipment of the Evertsen also took place.”
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