Incident off Crimea: who provoked whom?

Russia and the UK are each giving their own version of an incident on Wednesday in the Black Sea: the Russian military says it stopped a British warship off the coast of Crimea with warning shots. The British, however, maintain that no shots were fired, and that the vessel was just carrying out a routine transit through Ukrainian waters.

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Polityka (PL) /

Well done, dear Brits!

A splendid action, Polityka puts in:

“Britain has shown that it does not recognise 'faits accomplis' that violate international law and can engage in a targeted dialogue with Russia from a position of power. There is no doubt that the Royal Navy sent one of its strongest warships and could defend itself if Russia really were to use weapons. We should honour not just the bravery of this act of strategic communication, but also the calmness of the crew, who did not allow themselves to be provoked by the Russian ships and aircraft.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Provocative needling

Ria Novosti sees the incident as a provocation by the British:

“So Britain and Nato want to remind Russia that they don't recognise Crimea as Russian? We know that. But taunting the Russians on their borders (and almost exactly on the 80th anniversary of the start of the war to boot) is a dumb idea. The Sea Breeze manoeuvre that Nato is due to start next week in the Black Sea off the Ukrainian coast is just as dumb. ... These provocations have another goal: to keep us in suspense and demonstrate that they have no intention of easing up the pressure. The Atlanticists are doing the same thing in the Pacific region - but with China.”

BBC (GB) /

Russia feels surrounded

The BBC takes a closer look at the Russian perspective:

“It is important to bear in mind that Russia considers the whole of Ukraine, the Black Sea and the Crimea peninsula as its 'near abroad' - its own back yard. ... Just 30 years ago Russia was at the heart of a massive empire, the Soviet Union, which, together with its Warsaw Pact allies, stretched all the way from the borders of Germany to Afghanistan and beyond. Today, many of those former territories and allied states, such as Poland and the Baltic states, have joined Nato. So Russia feels surrounded, and that is a dangerous place to be.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Mocking ignorance

Echo of Moscow observes the situation with a touch of humour:

“Hard to say when we last shot at such a serious opponent. And even harder to say when the last time was that the alleged target claimed not to have noticed anything! We showed them all our might. And those Anglo-Saxons? They shrug with a grin and say: yes, the Russians did some shooting, but they weren't aiming at us, and anyway, these Russian boys are friendly and cultured people. It seems that the enemy is not only not afraid of us, but is also trolling us. At the very least that's not nice, if not downright mean.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A sea of desire

La Repubblica explains how important the Black Sea is for Russia:

“For centuries, the Black Sea has been of strategic importance to Moscow, ever since Empress Catherine the Great first annexed Crimea in 1783. Here, Russia can extend its power and influence towards the 'warm ports' of the Mediterranean (and reach them all year round ...). It has been an object of desire since the times of Peter the Great. Here, Russia can protect its trade with European markets and the transit of gas and oil, and here it has a buffer zone to prevent enemy attacks on its territory.”