A RUSSIAN coastguard boat barked “change your course or I’ll fire” at a massive Brit warship during a farcical face-off in the Black Sea.
HMS Defender was off Crimea in international waters when the 8,500-ton ship – armed to the teeth with hi-tech weapons systems – was confronted by the smaller vessel bellowing out its demands.
Russian warplanes were them called up join in and buzzed the Type-45 destroyer with four bombs dropped onto its path.
The incident unfolded just a few minutes before noon when according to Putin’s defence ministry, the Royal Navy ship crossed Russia’s maritime border near Cape Fiolent.
The 500ft cutting edge destroyer kept its course until confronted by much smaller Russian coastguard vessel.
The crew of the tiny Russian ship bellowed “if you don’t change course I’ll fire” at the massive British vessel.
The Russian vessel opened fire twice – once at 12.06pm and again at 12.08pm – before the planes were ordered in.
At 12.23pm HMS Defender then exited Russian waters.
Retired Rear Admiral Chris Parry, told The Sun Online it appears the Russian ship confronted HMS Defender after the Royal Navy vessel “got a bit bored” with it so fired “in indignation”.
“She was being trailed by some small border patrol craft. I think at one stage HMS Defender got a bit bored with it, so came up in speed.
“The patrol boats could not actually keep up, so in indignation they fired their guns somewhere, but nowhere near the ship.”
He explained that if the confrontation had escalated, there would only be be one likely outcome.
“This is not a ship you really want to take on if you are Russian,” he said.
“Most importantly HMS Defender has probably the best anti-aircraft systems – it can detect golf balls at a range of about 20 miles and can engage multiple targets.”
Russia’s aggression was for their own internal audiences, said Rear Admiral Parry.
“They want to say they have seen off a Royal Navy destroyer from their main fleet base in Sevastopol.
“If you add to that the Russians were conducting some form of live fire exercise, some miles away, what the Russians have done is linked all these incidents and said they’ve seen Defender off the premises.”
Officially, the UK is playing any suggestion of a confrontation with the Russian ships and planes.
The Ministry of Defence has insisted warship was simply conducting an “innocent passage” through Ukrainian waters.
Hitting back at Russian claims, it insisted: “No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path.”
But a BBC news crew on board HMS Defender said they heard shots fired.
The BBC reported that at times there were as many as 20 aircraft buzzing the warship and the sound of jets roaring overhead could be heard.
Russian media also reports a much more dramatic version of events, saying the SU-24M aircraft dropped four bombs on the course of the warship.
And a security source confirmed to the The Sun: “It’s basically pretty much as the Russians had it. We’re just not giving them the attention they crave.”
The incident is the latest clash between the West and Russia in the Black Sea, which has been the staging ground for numerous confrontations between warships and warplanes.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This morning, HMS Defender carried out a routine transit from Odesa towards Georgia across the Black Sea.
“As is normal for this route, she entered an internationally recognised traffic separation corridor. She exited that corridor safely at 0945 BST.
“As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity.
Moscow has summoned British officials to answer for the confrontation which comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West.
Defence sources said they believed the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the vicinity of the Type 45 destroyer – but there was no mention of dropping bombs.
The Royal Navy warship was said to be simply taking the most direct route between Ukraine and Georgia having yesterday visited Odessa.