A Russian warship fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs Wednesday to force a British destroyer from waters near Crimea in the Black Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said, claiming those waters belonged to Russia.
The incident marked the first time since the Cold War that Moscow used live ammunition to deter a NATO warship, reflecting soaring tensions between Russia and the West.
The ministry said the Russian warship fired warning shots after the British missile destroyer Defender ignored a notice against intrusion in Russia’s territorial waters. It said that a Russian Su-24 bomber also dropped bombs ahead of the British ship to persuade it to change course.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense responded in a tweet, claiming the Royal Navy ship was in Ukrainian waters in accordance with international law.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, a move that was not recognized by most countries in the world. Russia has frequently chafed at NATO warship activity near Crimea, casting them as destabilizing.
NATO members Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria all are on the Black Sea, but warships from the U.S., U.K. and other NATO allies also have made increasingly frequent visits in a show of support to Ukraine.
Western leaders criticized Russia during the G-7 and NATO summits last week for its aggressive behavior and human-rights abuses.
On Wednesday the Moscow Conference on International Security, run by the country’s defense ministry, opened with a speech by Sergei Shoigu, the long-standing defense minister.
Shoigu has said it is Russia that faces a growing threat from the West, with American bombers flying near Russia’s borders, NATO warships in the Black Sea and ever-larger exercises by NATO. Russia is of the view that the West is seeking to pry Belarus from its orbit and draw Ukraine closer to NATO, the Economist magazine reported Wednesday.