Russia: Crimea militarisation is ‘threat to Europe’ says expert
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Speaking today, one of Putin’s top officials warned any intrusion near to the Crimea would be met with the “harshest” methods. Following the near clash with the UK vessel last month, Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council then issued a brutal warning to those aboard the UK’s Royal Navy vessels. In an interview with the state-run Rossiiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, he said: “Similar actions will be thwarted with the harshest methods in future by Russia regardless of the violator’s state allegiance.
“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.
“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?”
Russian officials have issued repeated threats to the UK after the HMS Defender was intercepted in the Black Sea.
Although the UK does not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, Kremlin vessels ordered the Royal Navy ship to leave immediately last month.
After refusing to do so, the Russian FSB Border Service in tandem with the Black Sea Fleet fired warning shots towards the HMS Defender.
Following those warnings, the Russian government claimed Su-24M aircraft performed a preventative bombing run in the path of the UK ship.
UK officials rejected this summary of events and insisted the Royal Navy vessel was performing a freedom of passage operation.
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Commenting on the incident, George Eustice Cabinet Minister claimed the UK would not hesitate to take the route again.
He 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.
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“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.
“We never accepted the annexation of Crimea, these were Ukrainian territorial waters.”
Russian forces annexed Crimea in 2014 and despite its claims, no state in the West recognises the territory as part of Russia.
Despite this, Putin labelled the incident as a direct provocation against the Russian state.
His deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov also claimed Russia may bomb UK warships the next time they sailed close to the Crimean peninsula.
He said: “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.”
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