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US disputes Russian statement on naval interaction

  • October 16, 2021

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday that a Russian warship chased away a US Navy destroyer that attempted to break into its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan.

But the US Pacific Fleet said the statement “about the interaction between our two Navy ships is false.”

Washington added that the USS Chafee, a guided-missile destroyer, “conducted operations in accordance with international law and custom” at all times.

Russia and China are jointly conducting naval drills in the Sea of Japan from 14 until 17 October. The incident occurred during the second day of the naval exercise.

Russian and Chinese warships take part in the Russian-Chinese naval exercises

What did Russia say? 

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement the crew of the Admiral Tributs, a Russian anti-submarine vessel, had earlier radioed a warning to the US warship, saying that it was in “an area closed to the navigation due to exercises with artillery fire.”

It added in the statement that the US destroyer failed to change course and instead raised flags from its deck, indicating it could not turn or change speed.

Russia said that since the US warship didn’t change course, “acting within the framework of the international rules of navigation, the Admiral Tributs set a course for ousting the intruder from Russian territorial waters.”

The USS Chafee eventually changed course when the two vessels were less than 60 meters apart, the Russian statement said.

The incident lasted for about 50 minutes, according to Russian defense officials. 

RIA, a Russian-state news agency, said the Russian Defense Ministry summoned the US military attache to emphasize the “unprofessional actions” of the US destroyer’s crew. 

The report added that the US crew “had rudely violated international laws on the prevention of collisions of vessels at sea.”

What did the US say?

The US Pacific Fleet said its warship was conducting routine operations in “international waters in the Sea of Japan” when a Russian destroyer came “within 65 yards (60 meters) of USS Chafee while the ship was preparing for flight operations.”

The US military said all interactions were safe and professional.

The US acknowledged that the Russians had issued a notice, but added that it was issued “for later in the day” and was not “in effect at the time of the interaction.”

A similar occurrence

This is the second time in four months that Russia said it chased off a warship that belonged to a NATO member nation.

In June, Russia accused a British destroyer sailing in the Black Sea of breaching its territorial waters off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.

The UK denied the incident, saying its warship was in Ukrainian waters.

rm/fb (Reuters, AP)

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