Russian President Vladimir Putin says US aircraft involved in Black Sea UK incident

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Updated: June 30, 2021 6:04 PM

The actions of our colleagues in certain regions are aimed at avoiding the need for a lockdown, when entire enterprises shut down and people are left without their jobs, without their salaries, Putin said.

Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs in the path of British destroyer Defender on Wednesday to force her out of an area near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. (File image)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that a US reconnaissance aircraft was operating in sync with a British destroyer during last week’s Black Sea incident in what he described as a provocation” to test Moscow’s response.

Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs in the path of British destroyer Defender on June 23 to force it out of an area near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Britain denied that account, insisted its ship wasn’t fired upon and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.

Asked if the incident could have triggered World War III, Putin said that it was hardly possible even if Russia had sunk the British warship because Western powers knew they couldn’t emerge as winners in a global conflict.

Speaking during a live call-in show, Putin said that the US aircraft’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 revealing sensitive data.

In Wednesday’s incident, Britain insisted the Defender had been making a routine journey through an internationally recognized travel lane and remained in Ukrainian waters near Crimea. The UK, like most of the world, recognises Crimea as part of Ukraine despite the peninsula’s 2014 annexation by Russia.

Russia denounced the Defender’s move as a provocation and warned that next time it could fire to hit intruding warships if they again try to test Russian military resolve.

Responding to a question about Russia’s tug-of-war with Ukraine, Putin emphasized his long-held claim of close kinship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, but accused the Ukrainian leadership of maintaining a hostile course toward Russia.

The Russian president spent most of the marathon call-in show speaking on domestic issues.

He voiced hope that the country could avoid a nationwide lockdown amid a surge of new infections. Putin argued that decisions by local authorities in a number of regions who made vaccination mandatory for some workers should help contain the new wave of infections and avoid a lockdown.

The actions of our colleagues in certain regions are aimed at avoiding the need for a lockdown, when entire enterprises shut down and people are left without their jobs, without their salaries, Putin said.

He also revealed that he chose Sputnik V the domestically developed coronavirus vaccine Russia hailed as the first in the world to be authorised for use for his vaccination. Putin got his first coronavirus shot in late March out of the public eye, and has remained tight-lipped about which vaccine out of three domestically developed ones available at the time he chose.

The Russian president said he wasn’t consulting with his doctors about this, but rather looked at choices his acquaintances made, and went for Sputnik V, as it provided the longest protection against the virus. He added that he initially didn’t name the vaccine he took to avoid offering an advantage to its maker.

Russia gave Spuntik V regulatory approval last August and faced criticism both at home and abroad, as the shot had only been tested on a few dozen people at the time. However, the criticism has been blunted by a report in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet this year that said large-scale testing showed it to be safe, with an efficacy rate of 91 per cent against the virus.

Russia has struggled to cope with a surge in infections and deaths in recent weeks that comes amid rather slow vaccination rates. Coronavirus deaths in Russia hit a new daily record Wednesday, with the authorities reporting 669 new deaths.

Russia has been registering over 20,000 new coronavirus cases and around 600 deaths every day since last Thursday. On Wednesday, 21,042 new infections were recorded.

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