A Royal Navy warship was "sticking up for our values" in an incident with Russian forces in disputed waters around Crimea, Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister said the UK does not recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea and was pursuing freedom of navigation in international waters.

Mr Johnson denied UK relations with Russia were at an all-time low.

And he refused to be drawn on whether he had personally authorised the HMS Defender voyage.

But the prime minister said it was "wholly appropriate to use international waters" to "take the shortest route between two points and that's what we did".

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It was "very important" countries around the world continue to carry out manoeuvres "sticking up for our values, sticking up for what we believe in," he said on a visit to an Army barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire.

This would include "democracy, human rights, equalities and the rule of law, and freedom of navigation," Mr Johnson added.

On Wednesday more than 20 Russian aircraft and two coastguard ships shadowed HMS Defender as it was sailing off the coast of Crimea.

Moscow's defence ministry said a patrol ship fired warning shots and a jet dropped bombs in the Royal Naval ship's path.

image captionHMS Defender's crew were on high alert during the incidentimage copyrightReutersimage captionA video released by Russia's defence ministry allegedly shows HMS Defender from a Russian aircraft

But the UK government rejected Russia's account of the incident and denied that any warning shots had been fired.

Earlier, cabinet minister George Eustice said it was important "not to get carried away" by what was a staged "gunnery exercise" in the area.

The dramatic scenes were captured by members of the British media, who had been invited on to HMS Defender, leading some to question if it was part of deliberate effort to win the so-called "information warfare" between the East and the West.

The BBC's defence correspondent, Jonathan Beale, who is on board, said that just days before Defender set sail towards Crimea, an agreement was signed on the ship for the UK to help build warships for neighbouring Ukraine.

But he said the trip was also about "information operations" for the UK, with "journalists on board here with large audiences who can reach a lot of people".

And speaking on BBC Breakfast, former Nato Commander Rear Admiral Chris Parry said the incident was reminiscent of the "huffing and puffing that used to take place" in the past and amounted to "bully boy tactics" by Russia.

He said Moscow simply does not like Royal Naval ships like HMS Defender in the Black Sea going about their business near Russian naval bases and defending allies.

They are "jealous" and this is about "real political power play", he added.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, chair of the defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood, said that while it was important not to get "spooked" by Russia's actions, threats have to be addressed.

The Conservative MP said "military brushes" like this were "regular occurrences" during the cold war but the difference today was how quickly "a Russian disinformation campaign kicked in".

"This was about messaging", added the senior Conservative MP, with Russian President Vladimir Putin "painting the West as aggressors" and enjoying being talked about.

But he said the incident illustrates the importance of upholding international standards, otherwise other "errant states" like China would exploit the situation to assert their might.