Russia accused of “aggressive actions” against Dutch frigate in Black Sea confrontation
Russian fighter jets carried out feint attacks last week against the Zr.Ms. Evertsen, a Dutch frigate patrolling the Black Sea, the Dutch Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. The frigate is currently part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group.
The pretend attacks took place on Thursday between 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., the ministry said. Defense Minister Ank Bielefeld said the Russian actions were “irresponsible.”
The fighter jets were armed with air-to-surface missiles when they “repeatedly harassed the Evertsen” by flying "dangerously low and close,” the ministry stated. The frigate’s electronic equipment was also disrupted.
The Netherlands said its frigate was on the open seas, and in international waters. “There was no reason whatsoever for these aggressive actions. Despite this, the mock attacks continued for several hours. It was irresponsible and unsafe behavior at sea,” said Commander George Pastoor from the Evertsen in a statement.
The Russian government did not immediately respond to the accusations.
Bielefeld said the Netherlands will address the issue with Russia directly. “There is no justification whatsoever for this kind of aggressive action, which also unnecessarily increases the risk of accidents,” she stated.
Tensions have escalated in the Black Sea recently. After annexing and occupying the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, Russia considers an extended portion of Black Sea waters to be its territory.
Russia said it fired warning shots at the United Kingdom’s HMS Defender, part of the same Strike Group as the Dutch frigate. It claimed it also dropped four bombs along the Defender’s route. The U.K. denied Russia’s claim, but acknowledged that Russian fighter jets and military shadowed the Defender.
The UK Defence Ministry said their ship was "conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”
On Monday, the United States and Ukraine also launched a joint naval exercise in the Black Sea.
Last week at the European Council summit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also said he would not take part in any talks between European Union member states and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rutte had no objection to the leaders of France and Germany, which floated the plan, meeting with the Russian leader.
“I will not participate in a meeting with Vladimir Putin myself,” he said. As Rutte walked away from reporters, one asked why he would not join talks with Putin.
“MH17,” he replied.