US Officials Say Russian Warship Intentionally Interfered With Navy Operations
(ABC) -- The U.S. has accused Russia of intentionally interfering with its Navy operations.
New video released by Russia shows the moment that a Russian frigate, the Neustrashimyy, and the U.S. Navy’s USS Gravely crossed paths in the eastern Mediterranean two weeks ago. Russia’s defense ministry claimed the U.S. ship made a “dangerous approach” on its warship, saying it “grossly breached” international maritime laws. The ministry said the U.S. sailors were “allowing themselves to forget about the fundamental principles of safe sailing” and didn’t think about the potential consequences of their dangerous maneuver.
But U.S. officials told a very different version of events and they said the video is a clever piece of editing by the Russians.
U.S. officials stated that the USS Gravely was escorting the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman on June 17 when a Russian frigate approached it in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner.
The officials said that when the incident began, the frigate was two nautical miles from the American destroyer and flying the international signal flags that indicate a ship is restricted in its ability to maneuver. But then, according to the officials, the Russian frigate contacted the U.S. destroyer by radio, repeatedly asking it to maintain a safe distance while at the same time allegedly maneuvering to get closer to the USS Gravely.
One official said the Russian ship would follow in and out of the American ship’s wake. As the destroyer changed course and speed, so did the Russian ship, which the officials said indicates that it was able to maneuver, counter to the signals the Russian ship was flying. They accused the Russian ship of intentionally displaying a false international signal.
Officials said that their assessment is that the Russian ship was trying to intentionally interfere with the aircraft carrier’s operations.
“We are following up on this incident through appropriate military discussion channels with the Russians,” Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Defense Department spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement Tuesday.
Captain Danny Hernandes, spokesman for the U.S. European Command, said in a statement that he fears the incident will "escalate tensions" between the two countries.
“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian ship maneuvers and this most recent incident comes on the heels of other unsafe air and naval incidents on the part of the Russian military,” he said. “These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident which results in serious injury or death.”
This is far from the first time the U.S. and Russians have butted heads over military encounters.
In April, the Pentagon accused Russian aircraft of engaging in “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior on three separate occasions.
In one instance, a Russian fighter jet performed a barrel roll within 25 feet of a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. In another, a Russian jet buzzed a similar U.S. plane within 50 feet.
The first incident that month lasted over two days, with two Russian SU-25 fighter jets buzzing the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook more than 30 times.
Photo stills and video of the encounters released by U.S. European Command showed how low the Russian fighters were flying, with one pass coming within 30 feet of the destroyer.
After that encounter, a U.S. official told ABC News on April 13 that a further assessment was underway that could lead to a complaint filed by the Pentagon with the Russians.