Dutch say Russian jets buzzed warship in Black Sea

The Evertsen sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 14, 2021.
The Evertsen sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 14, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The Netherlands on Tuesday (June 29) accused Russian fighter jets of "aggressive" behaviour in an encounter with a Dutch warship in the Black Sea.

The incident last Thursday involved the frigate HNMLS Evertsen, part of a carrier strike group with the British destroyer HMS Defender, which itself purportedly came under Russian warning fire a day earlier.

The Dutch defence ministry said Russian planes "repeatedly harassed the Evertsen" over a period of five hours when it was south-east of Russian-annexed Crimea, adding that they "flew dangerously low and close by, performing feint attacks".

"The fighters were armed with bombs and so-called air-to-surface missiles... After hours of intimidation, disruptions to electronic equipment of the Evertsen also took place," the ministry said in a statement.

Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten said the Russian actions were "irresponsible" and that the Netherlands "will address Russia about this".

"The Evertsen has every right to sail there. There is no justification whatsoever for this kind of aggressive action, which also unnecessarily increases the risk of accidents," she said.

In a statement, the Russian defence ministry said that the Black Sea Fleet last Thursday scrambled Su-30 fighter jets and Su-24 bombers "to prevent violation of the border of the territorial waters of the Russian Federation" after the Evertsen "began moving in the direction of the Kerch Strait".

It said that the planes "flew at a safe distance near the Netherlands navy ship," which then "immediately changed its course."

"The flights of the Russian aircraft were carried out in accordance with international rules for the use of airspace," it added.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and claims the waters around the peninsula as part of its territory, including the Kerch Strait on Crimea's eastern tip.

Most countries do not recognise the takeover and stand behind Ukraine's claims to the waters.

In 2018, Russian forces boarded and took control of three Ukrainian naval ships as they headed through the Kerch Strait.

The standoff with the Dutch navy ship came a day after Russia said a border patrol ship fired warning shots at Britain's HMS Defender and a fighter jet dropped four bombs along its path near Crimea in the Black Sea.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the route taken by the Royal Navy destroyer.

Ukraine and the United States meanwhile launched joint naval exercises in the Black Sea on Monday in a show of Western cooperation with Kiev.