His tough statement seemed to show his determination to increase the stakes in case of another similar incident.
In a marathon call-in, Putin also disclosed that the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine was given to him. He also urged Russians to get their shots in the face of a rising number of deaths and cases due to widespread hesitancy.
Putin was asked about the incident that occurred in the Black Sea on June 23, in which Russia claimed one of its warships fired warning shot and a warplane dropped missiles in the direction of Britain's HMS Defender in order to drive it from an area close to Crimea, which Moscow claims is its territorial waters. He claimed that a U.S. reconnaissance plane had joined the "provocation" to assess Russia's response.
Britain, like many other countries, didn't recognize Russia’s 2014 annexation in Crimea. It insisted that the Defender was not fired upon, and claimed it was sailing within Ukrainian waters. The Defense Ministry of Britain said Wednesday that HMS Defender was making an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters, in accordance to international law.
Putin replied that the West would not risk a full-scale war if these events had occurred.
Putin stated that even if the ship had been sink, it was hard to believe that it would bring the world to the brink. "Those who do it know that there are no winners in that war and that it is very important." Russian officials warned that the military could fire upon any Western warship that enters the waterways again.
Putin claimed that the U.S. reconnaissance plane that took off from Crete, Greece, was working in conjunction with the British ship to observe the Russian military's reaction to the British destroyer.
He said that "it was clearly a provocation, a complex one including not only the British, but also the Americans", and added that Moscow was aware U.S. intentions. Moscow responded accordingly to prevent sensitive data being revealed.
When asked about Putin's claim Navy Capt. Wendy Snyder, chief of public affairs at the U.S. European Command, stated that there were aircraft in operation, but reiterated the Pentagon's dismissal of the Russian account of the incident.
Snyder stated that they are "operating in and monitoring everything in the Black Sea Region, as we always have,"
Russian leaders lamented the fact that this incident occurred just a few days after his meeting with Joe Biden, U.S. President, in Geneva.
He stated that the world was going through a "radical change". "Our U.S. partners know that and that's why they held the Geneva meeting. On the other hand they want to protect their monopolist stance which results in threats and destructive actions such as provocations, drills and sanctions.
Putin claimed that the naval incident elevated the controversy to a new level, even though the West does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.
He said, "They don’t recognize something -- OK. They can continue refusing to recognise it." "But why would they make such provocations?"
Putin insisted that Russia would defend its interests.
He said, "We are fighting to defend ourselves and our future on the territory we own." "It wasn't us who traveled thousands (miles) to get to them. It's them who came to our borders and violated the territorial waters."
Dmitri Trnin, director of Carnegie Moscow Center, said that the Black Sea incident last week presages a new, more dangerous level of confrontation.
Trenin stated in a comment that foreign attempts to expose Russian "red line" deterrence would force Moscow to defend what is impossible to give up without losing its self respect. This would almost certainly lead to clashes, casualties, and the risk of further escalated. This would lead to Russia-NATO confrontation that could escalate literally to brinkmanship. It is a very grim scenario.
On Wednesday, Putin also reiterated his claim of close kinship with the Ukrainian people but accused Kyiv to hostility towards Russia. He also voiced doubts about the value and worthiness of meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy the Ukrainian President, calling him a Western pawn.
Putin asked, "Why would you meet Zelenskyy, if he has placed his country under full foreign controls and key issues are decided for Ukraine not in Kyiv, but in Washington and, to some extent, Paris and Berlin?"
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, responded by tweeting that Putin would prefer Ukraine's problems to be decided in Moscow. He added, "This is our country. It's up to us only to decide our fate."
Russia increased its presence in Ukraine earlier this year and warned Moscow that Moscow could intervene in case Kyiv tried to use force to reclaim eastern areas held by Russia-backed separatists. The conflict in Ukraine erupted in 2014. Some troops were later withdrawn by Moscow, but the majority of them are still close to the border by Ukrainian authorities.
Putin spent the majority of the "Direct Line" four-hour show talking about domestic issues. This is typical for his meticulously choreographed annual ritual that helps him to project his image as a strong leader who cares for people's needs. It did not include any questions about Russia’s beleaguered opposition or Alexei Navalny (who is currently in prison).
He expressed hope that the country could avoid a nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown due to a rise in new infections. Russian authorities reported 669 deaths on Wednesday. However, Putin stated that regional officials should make mandatory vaccinations for certain workers.
Since June 24, Russia has been reporting over 20,000 coronavirus infections and 600 deaths per day. On Wednesday, 21042 new infections had been recorded.
Russian officials attribute the June surge to the lax attitude of Russians to taking precautions. They also blame more infectious variants and a low vaccination rate. Experts attribute this to widespread hesitancy and limited vaccine production. Only 15% of the population has had at least one shot, despite Russia being among the first to use a vaccine.
Putin admitted that he had received the Sputnik V vaccination despite his hesitancy. Putin received his first shot in March, but he has not spoken out about the vaccine he chose.
Putin stated that Russia does not intend to ban Western social media platforms, but stressed that they must abide by the law and promptly remove any inappropriate content.
We tell them that they are spreading child pornography or instructions on how to commit suicide or make Molotov cocktails. Putin stated, "You must take it down." This is wrong.