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Russian ambassador has ‘evidence’ UK special forces involved in attack on Black Sea fleet

Russia’s ambassador to the UK has claimed Britain played a role in an attack on its warships – warning the country is “too deep” in the Ukraine war.

In an interview with Sky’s Mark Austin, top diplomat Andrei Kelin claimed he had proof that UK special forces were involved in a Ukrainian drone assault on Russia‘s Black Sea fleet in Crimea and had handed ‘evidence’ to the British ambassador.

Asked to provide evidence of Russia’s claims, Mr Kelin said: “We perfectly know about [the] participation of British specialists in [the] training, preparation and execution of violence against the Russian infrastructure and the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. We know that it has been done.”

Russia's ambassador to the UK, Andrey Kelin
Image:
Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin

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Pressed to give evidence to the public on Moscow’s accusation the attack on the Russian fleet in the Black Sea was carried out under the guidance and leadership of British Navy specialists, Mr Kelin said it had been handed to the British ambassador and added that “it will become public pretty soon,” perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow.

He added: “It is dangerous because it escalates the situation. It can bring us up to the line of I would say no return, return is always possible. But anyway, we should avoid escalation.

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

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Claims designed to distract from military failures, UK says

The UK government has said such claims are false and are designed to distract from Russia’s military failures in Ukraine.

A spokesperson said: “In recent days, Russia has made a range of allegations against the UK, clearly designed to distract attention from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine; Russia’s losses on the battlefield and its bombing of civilian populations and energy infrastructure without any regard for international law and the loss of innocent life.

“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.”

Moscow has cast Britain as a particularly insidious Western foil to Russia. President Vladimir Putin has said the UK is plotting to destroy Russia and carve up its vast natural resources.

A still image from video, released by the Russian Defence Ministry, shows what it said to be Russia's Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launched during exercises held by the country's strategic nuclear forces at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia
Image:
A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launched during nuclear exercises

Ambassador denies Moscow would use nuclear weapons

Speaking after Russia accused the West of “encouraging provocations with weapons of mass destruction”, Mr Kelin denied Moscow would use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Mr Kelin said: “The nuclear war cannot be won and it should never be fought. And we stick strongly to this statement.”

A still image from video, released by the Russian Defence Ministry, shows what it said to be Russia's Tu-95MS strategic bomber landing during exercises held by the country's strategic nuclear forces at an unknown locatio
Image:
A Russian Tu-95MS strategic bomber landing during exercises held by the country’s strategic nuclear forces

Asked if Moscow could use a tactical nuclear weapon in the conflict, Mr Kelin replied: “No. The world has every assurance that Russia is not going to use [a] tactical nuclear weapon in [the] Ukrainian conflict.”

Russia’s claims are designed to distract from its very real challenges on the frontline


Deborah Hayes

Deborah Haynes

Security and Defence Editor

@haynesdeborah

Russia seems to have developed an unhealthy obsession with the UK over Ukraine.

The Kremlin has made various allegations about British special forces being linked to attacks against Russian targets in Ukraine and a set of blasts along a gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

Andrei Kelin, the Russian ambassador to London, even told Sky News’ Mark Austin his country has evidence that proves “British specialists” were involved in drone attacks against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea over the weekend.

The UK has previously dismissed such allegations as absurd. At the same time, it makes no secret of being one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine.

Britain’s willingness to send ever-more lethal weapons to help the Ukrainian military as well as a decision to establish a UK-based training programme to turn Ukrainian recruits into soldiers means it is – in a very overt way – bolstering Ukraine’s ability to push Russia’s invaders back.

London’s proactive approach also was instrumental in prompting other European allies to join the effort as well as giving encouragement to the United States.

Moscow’s attempts to accuse the UK of more direct military action could be designed to put pressure on the new British government to reduce its level of support – something that would potentially have a knock-on effect against western military aid more broadly.

What seems certain, is that Russia’s claims are designed to create a distraction away from its very real challenges on the frontline in Ukraine as well as its decision to target civilian infrastructure with merciless barrages of missiles.

Moscow has been ramping up its nuclear rhetoric since it invaded Ukraine, most recently by accusing Kyiv of planning to use a “dirty bomb,” though it did not offer evidence. Kyiv has denied it has any such plan.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it feared the five declared nuclear powers were teetering “on the brink of a direct armed conflict”.

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It added: “We are strongly convinced that in the current complicated and turbulent situation, caused by irresponsible and impudent actions aimed at undermining our national security, the most immediate task is to avoid any military clash of nuclear powers.”

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