Putin’s Black Sea ‘embarrassment’ behind Russia’s bid to blame UK

Ukraine marine drone strikes Russia' Black Sea fleet

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Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been left humiliated by repeated drone attacks by Ukrainian forces on Russia’s naval stronghold in Sevastopol – and attempts to blame Britain are a “face-saving fib”, a UK-based naval expert has said. Iain Ballantyne also mocked “ludicrous” Russian claims of British involvement in the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline network.

Speaking yesterday, Andrei Kelin, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, yesterday accused British “specialists” of helping plan an audacious drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet at the weekend in which three warships including the flagship HMS Makarov were reportedly damage.

Mr Ballantyne, the editor of editor of Warships International Fleet Review magazine, told Express.co.uk: “It is of course highly embarrassing for the Russians to think the Ukrainian special forces or navy on their own could carry out repeated drone attacks on their warships at sea or against Crimean bases.

“So, it is better for them to save face by suggesting, with no evidence, that the UK’s special forces were involved.

“The Ukrainians are receiving military training in the UK and courtesy of other NATO nations, plus lots of equipment of course, but the idea of ‘UK direct involvement’ in the Sevastopol attack is a face-saving fib for Moscow in my opinion.”

Mr Kelin also claimed Russia was continuing to investigate the explosions which damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 undersea gas pipelines in September, adding that UK special forces had been involved in training the Ukrainians in the use of explosives and undersea drones.

In the West it is widely suspected that the blasts were the work of the Russians themselves in an attempt to increase the pressure on European countries from rising energy prices.

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And Mr Ballantyne, who has just published his latest book, HMS London, said: “The idea that the Royal Navy sent special operators – and by that the Russians must mean the Special Boat Service personnel – to sabotage the Nord Stream pipeline is ludicrous.

“It would mean that a NATO nation had sent its military to blow up infrastructure off the shores of NATO nations.”

He joked: “Might Article 5 – an attack on one NATO nation is considered an attack on all – be triggered if that was found to be the case?

“Might NATO then be obliged to attack the UK, or the RAF and British Army at least declare war on the Royal Navy? It shows the sheer stupidity of a risible Russian claim.”

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He continued: “There have been suggestions the Americans may have done but that is equally crazy, for the same reason the UK would not do it.

“Both the UK and USA have dismissed such claims robustly. There is one nation with means and the desire to destroy Nord Stream – Russia – as part of its misinformation war to fracture Western resolve and also to put the frighteners on the EU nations as the winter energy war gathers pace.”

Speaking after Britain’s ambassador to Moscow Deborah Bronnert was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry in connection with the claims, Mr Kelin said the Kremlin would publish its proof “pretty soon”.

He declared: “We perfectly know about participation of British specialists in training, preparation and execution of plans against the Russian infrastructure and the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. We know that it has been done.

“It is dangerous. It can bring us to the line of I would say no return – return is always possible – but we should avoid escalation.

“This is a warning actually that Britain is too deep in this conflict. It means that the situation is becoming more and more dangerous.”

A UK Government spokesman said the Russian allegations were an attempt to “distract attention” for its illegal invasion of Ukraine and its continuing losses on the battlefield.

He added: “We do not plan to give a running commentary on these allegations.

“It is no secret that the United Kingdom has taken a public lead in our support to Ukraine – this has been enduring since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”

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