U.S., Russia hold nuclear talks in Geneva after summit push

By Stephanie Nebehay and Jonathan Landay

GENEVA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Senior U.S. and Russian officials on Wednesday restarted talks on easing tensions between the world’s largest nuclear weapons powers and agreed to reconvene in September after informal consultations, the State Department said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov headed their delegations at the meeting at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Geneva.

TASS news agency cited Ryabkov as saying he was satisfied with the consultations and that the United States showed readiness for a constructive dialogue at the talks.

Armed with mandates from their leaders, it was the first time in nearly a year that the sides had held so-called strategic stability talks amid frictions over a range of issues, including arms control.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose countries hold 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, agreed in June to launch a bilateral dialogue on strategic stability to “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures”.

After informal consultations aimed at “determining topics for expert working groups” in the next round, the two sides agreed to reconvene in late September, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Calling the discussions “professional and substantive,” he said the U.S. side discussed its policy priorities, the current international security environment, “the prospects for new nuclear arms control” and the format for further talks.

The decision to meet again showed the sides understand the need to resolve arms control disputes, a senior State Department official said, that have seen an end to several Cold War-era treaties, including one that limited intermediate-range missiles.

“We know we have a responsibility as the largest nuclear weapons states to find a way to improve strategic stability to deal with a deteriorating arms control architecture,” the official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

That includes dealing with threats posed by “new emerging technologies that can upset strategic stability,” the official said.

Such new threats could include artificial intelligence-controlled weapons, possible cyber attacks on existing nuclear weapons systems and more esoteric arms such as highly maneuverable aerial or submerged hypersonic weapons that can evade defenses.

Andrey Baklitskiy, senior research fellow at the Center for Advanced American Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told reporters in Geneva: “We are starting with a new U.S. administration, starting pretty much from scratch.

“It’s just meet and greet and try to establish some basic understandings,” he said.

Russia and the United States in February extended for five years the bilateral New START nuclear arms control treaty days before it was set to expire.

The treaty limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy.

The two sides had been expected to discuss which weapons systems and technologies are of greatest concern.

“For example, Russia still has concerns with U.S. modification of heavy bombers and launchers to launch ballistic missiles, and that’s been there for a while now,” Baklitskiy said.

The Biden administration has asserted that Russia has engaged unilaterally in low-yield nuclear testing, in violation of a nuclear testing moratorium, he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay. Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay in Washington; Editing by Peter Graff and Alistair Bell)

U.S., Germany deal on Nord Stream 2 pipeline draws ire of lawmakers in both countries

By Andrea Shalal and Andreas Rinke

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Germany will unveil a deal on Wednesday that maps out consequences for Russia if it uses the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to harm Ukraine or other Eastern European countries, but the deal faces opposition in both countries.

The agreement, hammered out by senior U.S. and German officials and first reported by Reuters on Monday, will resolve a long-standing dispute over the $11 billion pipeline, now 98% complete, being built under the Baltic Sea to carry gas from Russia’s Arctic region to Germany.

U.S. officials continue to oppose the pipeline, but say the accord would mitigate the possibility of Russia using energy as a weapon against Ukraine and other countries in the region.

Sources said Germany also agreed to take potential unspecified actions against Russia if it cut off energy supplies to Ukraine, in addition to seeking European Union sanctions, but details about those actions – or what specific behavior by Russia would trigger them – were not immediately available.

Germany would also contribute to a new $1 billion fund aimed at improving Ukraine’s energy independence, including through investments in green hydrogen, according to the sources.

Reports about the agreement drew immediate jeers from lawmakers in both Germany and the United States.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who has been holding up President Joe Biden’s ambassadorial nominations over his concerns about Nord Stream 2, said the reported agreement would be “a generational geopolitical win for Putin and a catastrophe for the United States and our allies.”

Cruz and other lawmakers are furious at Biden for waiving congressionally mandated sanctions against the pipeline.

The agreement will avert, for now, the resumption of sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG and its chief executive. Biden waived those sanctions in May to allow time for both sides to negotiate a way forward.

Some U.S. lawmakers have already introduced an amendment that would prevent the Biden administration from continuing to waive the sanctions, although the prospects for passage remain uncertain.

U.S. officials have sought to reassure lawmakers that the Biden administration will reserve the right to use sanctions on a case-by-case basis, in line with U.S. law.

In Germany, top members of the environmentalist Greens party, called the reported agreement “a bitter setback for climate protection” that would benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin and weaken Ukraine.

“At a time when Putin is putting massive rhetorical and military pressure on Ukraine and once again questioning the country’s sovereignty, Washington and Berlin are sending the wrong signals to Moscow,” said Oliver Krischer, vice-chairman of the party’s parliamentary group, and Manuel Sarrazin, spokesman for Eastern European policy.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Andreas Rinke and Simon Lewis; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Russians head for lakes as Moscow swelters in near-record heat

PSKOV/MOSCOW (Reuters) – People are heading to lakes to cool off as a heatwave sweeps western Russia, driving temperatures in Moscow towards record highs.

The capital’s daytime temperatures are forecast at 30-35 degrees Celsius in the coming days and could break record highs on three days this week that have stood since 1936, 1951 and 2010, the RIA news agency reported.

In the western city of Pskov, near the border with Estonia, a lakeside beach was packed at the weekend with families trying to cool off in the oppressive heat.

“People are suffering, just suffering! They wait until evening for the end of the working day and then head straight for the lake,” said Iskak, a resident who did not give his last name.

Last month the air temperature in Moscow reached 34.8C (94.64 degrees Fahrenheit), the hottest recorded in the month of June in 142 years of monitoring, the city’s weather authorities were cited by Interfax news agency as saying.

In the capital on Monday, the temperature hit 31C. A polar bear napped in the shade at the zoo, while gardeners lamented their parched plants at one of the city’s botanical gardens.

Pavel Konstantinov, a meteorologist at Moscow State University, said the heatwave had been caused by a “blocking anticyclone” that had moved in from Scandinavia.

“The increase in the frequency of dangerous weather events and in particular heatwaves unavoidably accompany global warming,” he told Reuters.

“It’s already clear they will happen more and more often and we need to prepare for them not as extremely rare events as in the past, but as dangerous weather phenomena that occur in populated parts of Russia,” he said.

(Reporting by Dmitry Turlyun; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Russia allows U.N. Syria aid access from Turkey for 12 months

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -The U.N. Security Council agreed on Friday to extend a cross-border aid operation into Syria from Turkey after Russia agreed to a compromise in last minute talks with the United States that ensures U.N. aid access to millions of Syrians for 12 months.

“Parents can sleep tonight knowing that for the next 12 months their children will be fed. The humanitarian agreement we’ve reached here will literally save lives,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The council mandate for the long-running aid operation was due to expire on Saturday. After not engaging in weeks of discussion on a resolution drafted by Ireland and Norway, Syrian ally Russia on Thursday proposed a six month renewal.

Following negotiations between Thomas-Greenfield and Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Friday morning, the 15-member council unanimously adopted a compromise resolution that asks for a U.N. report on Syria aid access in six months, but that diplomats said does not require another vote in January to again extend the cross-border operation.

Nebenzia described the vote on the resolution, presented by both the United States and Russia, as a “historical moment” that he hoped could “become a turning point that not only Syria will win from … but the Middle Eastern region as a whole.”

U.S. President Joe Biden had raised the importance of the cross-border aid operation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. The Biden administration warned at the time that any future cooperation with Russia over Syria would be at risk if the cross-border aid deliveries were shut down.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the Security Council to renew the cross-border aid operation for another year, warning that a failure to do so would be devastating for millions of people.

The council first authorized a cross-border aid operation into Syria in 2014 at four points. Last year, it whittled that down to one point from Turkey into a rebel-held area in Syria due to Russian and Chinese opposition over renewing all four.

Russia has said the aid operation is outdated and violates Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In a swipe at the United States and others, Russia and China have also blamed unilateral sanctions for some of Syria’s plight.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by William Maclean)

With aid in balance, Syrians who fled Assad fear deeper hardship

By Mahmoud Hassano

IDLIB PROVINCE, Syria (Reuters) – Having fled their homes to escape President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, many of Syrians sheltering in the rebel-held northwest fear their fate may once again be placed in his hands.

Russia, Assad’s key ally, wants U.N. aid to the region to come through the capital Damascus and not via Turkey, raising fears that food on which they rely will fall under their oppressor’s control.

A U.N. mandate to supply aid from Turkey, currently via the Bab al-Hawa crossing, expires on Saturday, and while Western members of the U.N. Security Council want to extend and expand it, veto powers Russia and China are wary of renewing it.

Russia skipped negotiations on the issue on Tuesday.

Hossam Kaheil, who fled to Idlib in 2018 when the rebellion in Ghouta, just outside Damascus, was defeated, does not trust Syrian authorities to let aid through if supply lines are changed.

“In Idlib the situation is good, but if they close the crossings, there will be a humanitarian catastrophe,” said the 36-year-old, who recalls being so hungry in 2014, as the Syrian army laid siege to Ghouta, that he had to eat animal feed.

He added that two of his siblings died due to medical shortages during the siege, described by U.N. investigators as the longest in modern history.

U.N. aid across the Turkish border has helped to keep millions of Syrians supplied with food, medicine and water in the last part of Syria still held by anti-Assad insurgents.

Syria says it is committed to facilitating the delivery of U.N. aid from within the country. The Syrian information ministry did not respond to emailed questions from Reuters for this article.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that the Red Cross and Red Crescent should be allowed to observe if there were suspicions of any stealing, although he did not think that would happen.

RUSSIAN LEVERAGE

The tussle marks a diplomatic front in a war that has been in military stalemate for several years, with Moscow and Damascus seeking to reassert state sovereignty over a corner of Syria outside their control.

Since winning back the bulk of Syria with Russian and Iranian help, Assad has struggled to advance further: Turkish forces block his path in the northwest, and U.S. forces are on the ground in the Kurdish-controlled east, where oilfields, farmland and land routes to Iraq are located.

Government-held Syria, along with the rest of the country, is in economic crisis. Assad’s plans for reconstruction and economic revival, which came to little, faced new headwinds with the imposition of new U.S. sanctions last year.

“This is a moment of leverage for Russia – a wrangle over strategic advantage in which humanitarian issues are being used as the fulcrum,” said Joshua Landis, head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“Unfortunately the Syrian people are the real losers in this battle between Russia and the United States.”

The United States wants the aid mandate renewed. So does Turkey, which exercises sway in the northwest through support to rebels, aid, and Turkish boots on the ground.

The United Nations has warned that failure to renew the aid operation would be devastating for millions of people.

“We don’t want to see these people becoming pawns in a political game,” said Mark Cutts, U.N. deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis.

“It is really shameful that we are talking about reducing access at a time when we should be scaling up the operation.”

The number of people dependent on aid in the northwest has grown by 20% to 3.4 million in a year, the U.N. says.

MISTRUST

Russia cites U.S. sanctions as a reason for the humanitarian problems. Washington, whose sanctions aim to cut off funds for Assad’s government, rejects this.

Agreed in 2014 when Assad was in retreat, the U.N. mandate initially allowed deliveries from four locations. Russian and Chinese opposition whittled this down to one last year. Russia says the operation is outdated.

Delivering aid across frontlines has proven difficult if not impossible throughout the war.

“We’ve requested access for cross-line convoys multiple times … because we would like as much access as possible from all sides, but the war is not over,” Cutts said.

“In this kind of environment, it is very difficult to get agreement from the parties on both sides for convoys to move across that frontline.”

Insurgents in the northwest include groups proscribed as terrorists by the Security Council. U.N. oversight has prevented aid being diverted to armed groups, Cutts said, expressing concern that the loss of such oversight may deter donors.

Durmus Aydin, secretary-general of Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), part of the aid operation, told Reuters that aid deliveries across frontlines did not seem possible at the moment.

“One of the reasons this isn’t a realistic solution is the mistrust in people towards the Syrian government and Russia.”

(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Istanbul, Tom Perry in Beirut, Andrew Osborn in Moscow and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Russia reports record 737 COVID-19 deaths, changes entry rules

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday reported a record 737 deaths from coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours as the country stepped up efforts to vaccinate its population of more than 144 million people.

A new surge in COVID-19 cases in June was blamed on the new, highly infectious, Delta variant. Moscow responded with mandatory vaccination for a wide group of citizens, a model adopted by other regions, sparking wide public discontent ahead of September parliamentary elections.

Health minister Mikhail Murashko said up to 850,000 people were being vaccinated against COVID-19 in Russia every day, and that building immunity across the population was key, the TASS new agency reported.

Murashko said foreign producers of COVID-19 vaccines had applied to register in Russia, without disclosing their names.

Russia has so far offered its own vaccines against the novel coronavirus, launching a mass vaccination campaign in late 2020.

From Wednesday, Russia will change the rules for citizens returning from abroad, scrapping the obligation to undergo two PCR tests upon arrival, a decree published on Tuesday and signed by Anna Popova, head of the consumer health watchdog, showed.

From July 7, all those vaccinated or officially recovered from COVID-19 do not need to take a PCR test. Those who do not fall into these two categories when they enter Russia, will need to self-isolate before receiving results of one PCR test.

In the past day, Russia has confirmed 23,378 new COVID-19 cases, including 5,498 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,658,672.

The Kremlin said it would not support the idea of closing borders between Russia’s regions to stop the virus from spreading, although some regions may take swift and harsh measures to withstand the pandemic.

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases, along with the need to raise interest rates to combat inflation, are seen challenging economic growth in Russia this year.

(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Gleb Stolyarov; additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Catherine Evans, William Maclean)

No survivors from plane crash in Russia’s far east, rescue officials say

MOSCOW (Reuters) -There are no survivors after a plane carrying 28 people crashed in the far east of Russia on Tuesday, Russian news agencies cited rescue officials as saying.

The Antonov An-26 twin-engine turboprop was en route from the regional capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Palana, a village in the north of the Kamchatka peninsula, when it lost contact with air traffic control, the emergencies ministry said.

Citing sources, Interfax reported that the plane was thought to have crashed into a cliff as it was preparing to land in poor visibility conditions.

Russia’s civil aviation authority confirmed that the plane’s crash site had been found after the emergencies ministry dispatched a helicopter and had deployed teams on the ground to look for the missing aircraft.

There were 22 passengers and six crew on board, the ministry said. Olga Mokhireva, the mayor of Palana, was among the passengers, the TASS agency quoted local authorities as saying.

The weather in the area was cloudy at the time the plane went missing, Russian news agencies reported. TASS said the aircraft involved had been in service since 1982.

Russian aviation safety standards have improved in recent years but accidents, especially involving ageing planes in far-flung regions, are not uncommon.

The Soviet-era plane type, still used for military and civilian flights in some countries, has been involved in dozens of deadly crashes since it entered service around 50 years ago.

An Antonov-28, a similar plane, slammed into a Kamchatka forest in 2012 in a crash that killed 10 people along the same route. Investigators said both pilots were drunk at the time of the crash.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Kim Coghill, John Stonestreet and Alison Williams)

Putin says Russia could have sunk UK warship without starting World War Three

By Andrew Osborn and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia could have sunk a British warship that it accused of illegally entering its territorial waters without starting World War Three and accused Washington of a role in the “provocation.”

Tensions between Moscow and London soared last week after Russia challenged the right of HMS Defender to transit waters near Russian-annexed Crimea, something Britain said it had every right to do.

Putin’s comments add menace to earlier Russian warnings that Moscow would bomb British naval vessels in the Black Sea in the event of further provocative actions by the British navy near heavily fortified Crimea.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and Britain and most of the world recognize the Black Sea peninsula as part of Ukraine, not Russia.

In an account of last week’s incident which London said it did not recognize, Russia said it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of the British warship which was en route from Ukraine to Georgia.

Putin, speaking during his annual question and answer session with voters, signaled his anger over what he called “a provocation” designed to reveal how Russian forces in Crimea reacted to such intrusions.

When asked if the world had stood on the precipice of World War Three during the standoff, Putin said: “Of course not.”

“Even if we had sunk the ship it is hard to imagine that the world would have been on the verge of World War Three because those doing it (the provocation) know that they could not emerge as victors from such a war,” he added.

Putin accused the United States and Britain of planning the episode together, saying a U.S. spy plane had taken off from Greece earlier on the same day to watch how Russia would respond to the British warship.

“It was obvious that the destroyer entered (the waters near Crimea) pursuing, first of all, military goals, trying to use the spy plane to see how our forces would stop such provocations, to see what is activated and where, how things work and where everything is located.”

Putin said Russia had realized what the aim of the exercise was and had responded in a way that would only give the other side the information Moscow deemed necessary.

Putin said he saw a political element to the incident, which took place shortly after he had met U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva.

“The meeting in Geneva had just happened, so why was this provocation needed, what was its goal? To underscore that those people (the Americans and British) do not respect Crimeans’ choice to join the Russian Federation,” he said.

The Russian leader accused London and Washington of a lack of gratitude, saying he had earlier this year given the order for Russian forces to pull back from near Ukraine’s borders after their build-up had generated concern in the West.

“We did this,” said Putin. “But instead of reacting positively to this and saying ‘OK, we’ve understood your response to our grumbling’ – instead of that, what did they do? They barged across our borders.”

(Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alex Richardson and Catherine Evans)

Russia warns UK and U.S. not to tempt fate in Black Sea

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia warned Britain and the United States on Friday against “tempting fate” by sending warships to the Black Sea, and said it would defend its borders using all possible means including military force.

In a statement broadcast on state television, the Defense Ministry said it was ill-advised for British and U.S. vessels to approach the coast of Crimea, a peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“We call on the Pentagon and the British navy, which are sending their warships into the Black Sea, not to tempt fate in vain,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, the ministry’s spokesperson, said.

HMS Defender, a British destroyer that sailed through waters off Crimea on Wednesday, was “not more than a target” for the Black Sea fleet’s defenses, he said.

Russia considers Crimea part of its territory, but the peninsula is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

Russia said on Wednesday it had fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of a British warship to chase it out of Black Sea waters off the coast of Crimea.

Britain rejected Russia’s account of the incident. It said it believed any shots fired were a pre-announced Russian “gunnery exercise”, and that no bombs had been dropped.

It confirmed HMS Defender had sailed through what it said were waters belonging to Ukraine.

The British embassy in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgian the South Caucasus, wrote on Twitter on Friday that HMS Defender was set to arrive in the port city of Batumi on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said separately that Washington and London were sowing strife by failing to accept Crimea was part of Russia, and that Russia was ready to defend its borders using all means, including military force.

Moscow warned Britain on Thursday that it would bomb British naval vessels in the Black Sea if what it called provocative actions by the British navy were repeated off the Crimean coast.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said separately on Friday that it was beginning joint navy and air force exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, where Moscow operates an air base on Syria’s coast.

(Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Alexander Marrow and Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Editing by Katya Golubkova, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean)

Russia warns Britain it will bomb ships next time

By Guy Faulconbridge and Katya Golubkova

LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia warned Britain on Thursday that it would bomb British naval vessels in the Black Sea if there were any further provocative actions by the British navy off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea.

Russia summoned the British ambassador in Moscow for a formal diplomatic scolding after the warship breached what the Kremlin says are its territorial waters but which Britain and most of the world say belong to Ukraine.

Britain said Russia was giving an inaccurate account of the incident. No warning shots had been fired and no bombs had been dropped in the path of the Royal Navy destroyer Defender, it said.

In Moscow, Russia summoned Ambassador Deborah Bronnert for a reprimand over what it said were Britain’s “dangerous” action in the Black Sea – while foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused London of “barefaced lies”.

“We can appeal to common sense, demand respect for international law, and if that doesn’t work, we can bomb,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies.

Ryabkov, referring to Moscow’s version of events in which a Russian aircraft bombed the path of the British destroyer, said that in future bombs would be sent “not only in its path, but also on target.”

The Black Sea, which Russia uses to project its power in the Mediterranean, has for centuries been a flashpoint between Russia and its competitors such as Turkey, France, Britain and the United States.

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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the British warship, which was travelling from the Ukrainian port of Odessa to the Georgian port of Batumi, was acting in accordance with the law and had been in international waters.

“These are Ukrainian waters and it was entirely right to use them to go from A to B,” Johnson said. British Defense Minister Ben Wallace accused Russian pilots of conducting unsafe aircraft maneuvers 500 feet (152 m) above the warship.

“The Royal Navy will always uphold international law and will not accept unlawful interference with innocent passage,” Wallace said.

Under international law of the sea, innocent passage permits a vessel to pass through another state’s territorial waters so long as this does not affect its security.

Britain disputed the Russian version of events, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calling it “predictably inaccurate”.

BLACK SEA DISPUTE

During its 2008 war with Georgia, Russia bristled at U.S. warships operating in the Black Sea, and in April the United States cancelled the deployment of two warships to the area.

Ties between London and Moscow have been on ice since the 2018 poisoning with a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal, a mole who betrayed hundreds of Russian agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service.

The British destroyer visited the Ukrainian port of Odessa this week, where an agreement was signed for Britain to help upgrade Ukraine’s navy.

Russia said it had ventured as far as 3 km (2 miles) into Russian waters near Cape Fiolent, a landmark on Crimea’s southern coast near the port of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet.

Britain’s BBC released footage from the ship showing a Russian coast guard warning that he would shoot if the British ship did not change course.

“If you don’t change the course, I’ll fire,” a heavily accented Russian voice said in English to the British ship. The BBC said shots were fired and that as many as 20 Russian aircraft were “buzzing” the British ship.

Britain said the shots were part of a Russian gunnery exercise. Russia released footage filmed from a Russian SU-24 bomber flying close to the British ship.

“These aircraft posed no immediate threat to HMS Defender, but some of these maneuvers were neither safe nor professional,” Britain’s Wallace said.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Additonal reporting by Michael Holden and William James, Joe Brock in Singapore and Dmitry Antonov and Tom Balmforth in Moscow; Editing by Kate Holton and Angus MacSwan)