Dutch navy: Russian jets flew low over frigate in Black Sea
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Russian warplanes repeatedly flew low over a Dutch navy frigate in the Black Sea last week and carried out “mock attacks,” the Defense Ministry of the Netherlands said Tuesday.
The incident involving the Dutch ship Zr. Ms. Evertsen happened last Thursday southeast of Crimea, the ministry said in a statement.
It came a day after after Russia said one of its warships in the Black Sea fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs to force a British destroyer out of an area near Crimea that Russia claims as its territorial waters. Britain denied that account and insisted its ship wasn’t fired upon.
The Evertsen has been patrolling in the Black Sea with HMS Defender, the British ship that was involved in that incident.
Defense Minister Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten called the Russian actions “irresponsible.”
“Evertsen has every right to sail there,” she said. “There is no justification whatsoever for this kind of aggressive act, which also unnecessarily increases the chance of accidents.”
She said the Netherlands would speak to Russia about the incident.
The ministry said that the Russian jets, armed with bombs and air-to-surface rockets flew past the frigate between 3:30 p.m and 8:30 p.m. and were followed by “disruptions to the Evertsen’s electronic equipment.”
The Russian Defense Ministry responded in a statement later Tuesday, saying that the military scrambled its warplanes “to prevent the violation of the Russian Federation’s territorial waters” after the Evertsen changed course and headed toward the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.
The ministry said that after the Su-30 fighter jets and the Su-24 bombers made flyovers “at a safe distance” from the Evertsen, the ship changed course and sailed away.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, a move not recognized by most countries, gaining access to its long Black Sea coast. Russia has chafed at NATO warships visiting near Crimea as destabilizing. In April, it declared a broader area off Crimea closed to foreign naval ships.
In April, Russia imposed restrictions on foreign naval movements near Crimea until November in a move that drew strong complaints from Ukraine and the West. Russia rejected the criticism and noted the restrictions wouldn’t interfere with commercial shipping.
Earlier this year, Russia also bolstered its troops near the border with Ukraine and warned Kyiv against using force to reclaim control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland, where a conflict with Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 14,000 people in seven years. Moscow withdrew some of its forces after maneuvers, but Ukrainian officials say many of them remain.
Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.