On June 23, 2021, the HMS Defender destroyer of the Royal Navy received warning shots from the Russian forces as it was sailing within 12 nautical miles of Crimea. 

A week later, the Dutch Ministry of Defense claimed the HNMLS Evertsen frigate of the Dutch Navy was also harassed in the Black Sea on June 24, 2021.

Just like the HMS Defender, the HNMLS Evertsen is part of the UK Carrier Strike Group, which escorts the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth of the Royal Navy.

“The [Russian] planes repeatedly harassed the Everts between about 3.30 pm and 8.30 pm local time,” the ministry wrote in a statement. “They flew dangerously low and close by, performing feint attacks. The fighters were armed with bombs and so-called air-to-surface missiles, intended to fire at a target from the air.” 

The pictures shared by the ministry show a couple of Su-30SM aircraft, one being armed with what resemble supersonic anti-ship Kh-31 missiles.

(Credit: Dutch Ministry of Defense)

According to the commander of the HNMLS Evertsen, captain-lieutenant at sea George Pastoor, the warship sailed on the open sea in international waters and “there was no reason whatsoever for these aggressive actions.”

The Dutch ministry also reported that the electronic systems of the Dutch frigate were disrupted while the latter was sailing 70 nautical miles off Crimea. The Netherlands issued Russia a formal diplomatic complaint.

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement claiming it prevented the HNMLS Evertsen from crossing the Kerch Strait, which separates the Black Sea from that of Azov.

“On June 24, 2021, it was established that the Dutch navy frigate Evertsen, which was sailing in neutral waters, changed course and began to proceed towards the Kerch Strait,” the Russian defense ministry wrote in a statement shared by Interfax. “To prevent violation of the border of the territorial waters of the Russian Federation, Su-30 fighters and Su-24 bombers were raised into the air from the duty forces, which flew at a safe distance near the Dutch Navy ship." 

In December 2003, Russia and Ukraine agreed on the principle of freedom of movement in the Kerch Strait, considering the Sea of ​​Azov as “shared internal waters.” However, since 2014 and the annexation of Crimea, the strait has been the cause of tensions. On November 25, 2018, three ships of the Ukrainian navy were transiting from Odessa to Mariupol harbor when the Russian navy intercepted the convoy as it was trying to pass through the Kerch Strait, under the bridge newly constructed between Crimea and Russia.

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Several Russian fighter jets and combat helicopters were deployed to assist the blockade of the Kerch Strait. The incident prompted the Ukrainian air force to be put on high alert.