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UK’s Raab says Russia’s warship claims ‘predictably inaccurate’

SINGAPORE — Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Thursday that no shots were fired on a British destroyer in the Black Sea and Russia’s explanation of the incident was “predictably inaccurate.”

Russia said on Wednesday it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of the Royal Navy destroyer Defender to chase it out of waters Moscow claims in the Black Sea off the coast of the Crimea peninsula.

Britain has played down the incident.

“No shots were fired at HMS Defender,” Raab told reporters in Singapore during a visit to discuss trade deals.

“The Royal Navy ship was conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters. We were doing so in accordance with international law and the Russian characterisation is predictably inaccurate.”

Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and considers areas around its coast to be Russian waters. Western countries deem the Crimea to be part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the seas around it.

Raab also called on China to respect its commitments to free media in Hong Kong under an agreement with Britain, referring to the closure on Thursday of Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s most vocal pro-democracy newspaper.

Apple Daily’s owner and other staff have been arrested under a new national security law, which is championed by Beijing.

“We certainly view what’s been happening in with the closure of the Apple Daily and the arrest of journalists very, very seriously,” Raab said.

“We call on China to respect the terms that it freely signed up to and we think that’s a matter of trust as well as important for the people of Hong Kong,” Raab said, referring to an agreement between Britain and China over how the city would be ruled after its return to China in 1997.

Authorities in Hong Kong have said the moves against Apple Daily were not targeting the media industry or press freedom. (Reporting by Joe Brock; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies and Angus MacSwan)

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