Moscow says one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs on the road to British destroyer Defender on June 23 (AP)
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was operating in sync with a British destroyer during last week’s Black Sea incident in what he described as a “challenge” to test its response.
Moscow says one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs on the road to Britain’s catastrophic Defender on June 23 to force it out of an area near the Crimean peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. Britain denied the bill, insisted its ship was not shot and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
Asked if the incident could spark World War II, Putin said it was almost impossible even if Russia had sunk the British warship because Western powers knew they could not emerge victorious in a global conflict.
Speaking during a live broadcast, Putin said the US plane’s apparent mission was to monitor the Russian military’s response to the British destroyer. He added that Moscow was aware of the US intentions and responded accordingly to avoid disclosing sensitive data.
In Wednesday’s incident, Britain insisted that the Defender made a routine journey through an internationally recognized travel lane and remained in Ukrainian waters near Crimea. The United Kingdom, like most of the world, recognizes Crimea as part of Ukraine despite Russia’s annexation by Russia in 2014.
Russia has denounced the ombudsman’s move as a provocation and warned that it could fire to strike the invading warships next time they try to retaliate against Russian military determination.
Asked about Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, Putin stressed his long-standing claim of close kinship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, but accused the Ukrainian leadership of being hostile to Russia.
The Russian president spent most of the marathon show talking about domestic issues.
He expressed hope that the country could avoid a national blockade amid a wave of new infections. Putin argued that decisions by local authorities in some areas that made vaccination mandatory for some workers should help curb the new wave of infections and avoid blockade.
“The actions of our colleagues in some areas are aimed at avoiding the need to lock up when entire businesses are closed and people are left without jobs, without salaries,” Putin said.
He also revealed that he had chosen Sputnik V – the home-grown Koranovirus vaccine that Russia hailed as the first in the world to be approved for use – for its vaccination. Putin released his first coronavirus plan to the public in late March, and remained firm on which of the three domestically developed vaccines he chose.
The Russian president said he did not consult his doctors about it, but rather considered the choices made by his acquaintances and went for Sputnik V, as it provided the greatest protection against the virus. He added that he did not initially name the vaccine he received to avoid offering an advantage to its manufacturer.
Russia gave the Spuntik V regulatory approval last August and faced criticism both at home and abroad, as the download had only been tested on a few dozen people at the time. However, criticism has been softened by a report in the popular British medical journal The Lancet this year stating that large-scale trials have been shown to be safe, with an 91% effectiveness against the virus.
Russia has struggled to cope with rising infections and deaths in recent weeks amid relatively 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 cases of coronavirus and about 600 deaths every day since last Thursday. On Wednesday, 21,042 new infections were recorded.