The former head of the UK’s armed forces warned yesterday that it is “squeaky bum time” amid fears of World War Three.
Lord Richard Dannatt issued the alert as Vladimir Putin’s bullyboys vowed to “hit the target” of any ship entering their waters.
The pledge came after a warship fired warning shots and a fighter plane dropped bombs near HMS Destroyer on Wednesday for “illegally” entering what Russia claims is its territorial waters in the Black Sea.
When Lord Dannatt was asked if the clash meant it was “squeaky bum time”, he warned: “It is.”
He added that loved ones of sailors on board the £1billion missile-loaded British vessel “will have been worried” by the face-off.
He also dismissed as “cods-wallop” claims that the shots fired at the British ship were merely part of a Russian gun exercise.
The retired general added Russian president Putin was “testing the will of West”.
He admitted: “I’m a little bit surprised that the MoD is playing it down.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday tried to channel his inner Vlad by posing at the wheel of a military vehicle at Aldershot Garrison, Hants.
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He declared it was “entirely right” for HMS Defender to be travelling through the waters off Crimea because the UK does not recognise Russia’s claim to the territory.
But Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov warned: “We can call people to respect common sense and international law.
“But if that doesn’t help, we can bomb not only the path of a ship, but hit the target.”
HMS Destroyer was fired on twice by a Russian border patrol vessel before an SU-24 fighter swooped to drop four warning bombs in the direction of the vessel before it retreated.
The explosives were dropped near Crimea, Russia's defence ministry reportedly said to Interfax.
It's also alleged that HMS Defender refused to listen to radio warnings before the shots were fired.
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"The destroyer had been warned that weapons would be used if it trespasses the border of the Russian Federation. It did not react to the warning," it said.
"As a result of joint actions of the Black Sea Fleet and the Border Service of the Russian Federal Security Service, HMS Defender left the territorial sea of the Russian Federation at 12.23pm."
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