A top Russian defense official warned Britain on Wednesday that it would not return to its warships near Crimea unless British sailors wanted to be wounded.
The warning, issued by Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary general of the Russian Security Council, following an incident last month that the British warship “HMS Defender” had implemented London’s internationally recognized rules regarding freedom of navigation in Ukrainian territorial waters near the Crimea.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, claiming that the waters around the peninsula now belong to Moscow, although most countries still recognize the region as Ukrainian.
Popov, in an interview with the state newspaper Rossiskaya Gazette, said the UK’s behavior and the ensuing reaction to the incident were confusing.
In particular, he criticized the recommendations of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and British Foreign Secretary Dominique Robb that the incident could happen again.
“Similar actions will be thwarted by Russia in the future, regardless of the loyalty of the state of the violator. We recommend that our adversaries consider carefully whether it is worthwhile to organize such provocations, taking into account the capabilities of the Russian armed forces.” Popov said.
“The presence of ships and vessels used for provocative purposes is not that of members of the British Government,” he added. “It’s in this context that I would like to ask Boris Johnson and Dominic Rob a question – what will they say to the families of British sailors who have been injured in the name of such ‘tremendous’ ideas?”