Vladimir Putin warns Royal Navy to ‘leave "Russian" waters or Brit sailors will get hurt’ as Crimea tensions mount
ONE of Vladimir Putin's top officials has told Britain not to sail its warships near disputed Crimea warning Royal Navy sailors "will get hurt".
Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of the Kremlin's Security Council, hit out weeks after the Russian coastguard infamously fired warning shots at HMS Defender claiming it had entered "Russian" waters.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has declared the waters around it belong to Moscow – despite most countries continuing to recognise the peninsula as Ukrainian.
Popov, in an interview in the state Rossiiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, said Britain's behaviour during the recent Black Sea stand-off and its subsequent reaction to the incident was bewildering.
In particular, he criticised suggestions from PM Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, the foreign minister, that the worrying incident could be repeated in the future.
"Similar actions will be thwarted with the harshest methods in future by Russia regardless of the violator's state allegiance," said Popov
"We suggest our opponents think hard about whether it's worth organising such provocations given the capabilities of Russia's armed forces."
He then issued a chilling warning to those serving on board Royal Navy ships.
We suggest our opponents think hard about whether it's worth organising such provocations given the capabilities of Russia's armed forces
"It's not the members of the British government who will be in the ships and vessels used for provocational ends," he added.
"And it's in that context that I want to ask a question of the same Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab – what will they say to the families of the British sailors who will get hurt in the name of such 'great' ideas?"
His hardline comments echo a similar warning from Russia's deputy foreign minister last month.
Sergey Ryabkov even warned UK warships could be bombed the next time they sail too close to Crimea in the wake of the HMS Destroyer incident.
The British Type 45 destroyer sailed within the 12-mile limit of Crimea near Cape Fiolent in the Black Sea .
The flashpoint saw 20 Su-24s buzzing over the the 8,500-ton Royal Navy vessel – which was armed to the teeth with hi-tech weapons systems.
The BBC reported that more than 20 aircraft were overheadwith two Russian coastguard boats just 100m away at times.
BLACK SEA CLASH
The crew of the tiny Russian coastguard ship bellowed "if you don't change course I'll fire" at the massive British vessel.
The Russian vessel opened fire twice before the planes were ordered in.
Ryabkov later warned: "What can we do? We can appeal to common sense, demand respect for international law.
"If this does not help, we can bomb not only in the direction but also on target, if our colleagues do not understand.
"I warn everyone violating the state borders of the Russian Federation under the slogan of free navigation, from such provocative steps, because the security of our country comes first."
Putin later boasted that even if Russia had sunk HMS Defender it would not have caused World War Three.
The Russian president said his navy could have attacked the ship in the Black Sea because the West knows "full well that they can't win in that war".
Speaking in the aftermath of the incident, cabinet minister George Eustice told Sky News: "Under international law you can take the closest, fastest route from one point to another.
"HMS Defender was passing through Ukrainian waters, I think on the way to Georgia, and that was the logical route for it to take.
"This is a very normal thing, it's quite common actually. What was actually going on is the Russians were doing a gunnery exercise, they had given prior notice of that, they often do in that area.
"So, I think it's important people don't get carried away."
Asked if the Government would do it again, he said "of course" before adding: "We never accepted the annexation of Crimea, these were Ukrainian territorial waters."
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