The UK considers freedom of navigation in international waters a fundamental right, the country’s Ministry of Defense stated on Wednesday, commenting on the incident with the Dutch frigate Evertsen in the Black Sea.
"Freedom of navigation is a fundamental right exercised by all nations. It remains essential that all conduct is safe, professional and in line with international law," the ministry said on Twitter.
On Tuesday, the Dutch Ministry of Defense accused Russian fighters of flying dangerously close to the Dutch frigate Evertsen in the Black Sea, creating an unsafe situation. According to the ministry, the incident occurred on June 24 when the warship stayed southeast of Crimea. According to the Dutch side, "the fighters were armed with bombs and air-to-surface missiles intended to strike targets from the air" and "flew dangerously close by and low [over the frigate], performing feint attacks."
For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry informed that the Dutch frigate was moving towards the Ketch Strait, and Russian bombers and fighters were scrambled to prevent a border violation. "All flights by Russian planes were carried out in strict compliance with international rules of using airspace," the ministry stressed, TASS reports.
The Dutch frigate forms part of the British carrier strike group led by HMS Defender, which entered Russia’s territorial waters near Crimea’s Cape Fiolent on June 23. The destroyer reportedly traveled 3 kilometers into Russia’s territorial waters. A guard ship fired warning shots, followed by several bombs, after which the destroyer left Russian waters. The Russian Defense Ministry viewed the destroyer’s actions as a blatant violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and called on London to investigate the actions of the crew. London claims that the destroyer was conducting an "innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters." According to the UK, the Russian military did not fire any shots at the destroyer, but conducted "practice firing."