Exclusive to The Middle East Online
Edited by Nelly Tawil
Russia’s Defence Ministry has accused an American destroyer of coming dangerously close to a Russian frigate in the Mediterranean Sea, calling the incident a “gross violation” of international agreements.
“On June 17, in the east of the Mediterranean Sea, the American destroyer USS Gravely came dangerously close to a Russian warship, 60 to 70 meters from the left side, and crossed the path of frigate Yaroslav Muddy at the dangerous distance of 180 meters from the bow,” the ministry said in a statement.
The statement added that the Russian frigate was not “conducting dangerous manoeuvres” while in international waters at the time of the incident, in respect to the American destroyer.
The ministry protested at what it said was a flagrant violation by US sailors of rules to avoid collisions at sea.
“The US sailors, in particular, neglected Rule 13, which stipulates that an overtaking vessel must keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken,” it said.
The ministry added that the US ship had also violated Rule 15, which says that a vessel that has another ship on the starboard side must yield the pathway.
The Pentagon “has recently accused with great perseverance Russian pilots and marines of lacking professionalism”, it said.
“But this incident shows that US marines allow themselves to forget basic rules of maritime safety.”
The Pentagon should take note of such incidents rather than accuse the Russian Air Force and Navy of unprofessional conduct, the Russian defence ministry continued.
“US sailors allow themselves to neglect key foundations of navigation safety without thinking of the consequences that dangerous manoeuvring in a heavily trafficked maritime area might involve,” the statement read.
But a US Defence Department official hit back at Moscow’s claims, saying a Russian warship carried out an “unsafe and unprofessional” maritime operation near two US Navy ships on June 17.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Russian Neustrashimy-class frigate came within 288 metres of the USS Gravely and within five nautical miles of the USS Harry S Truman in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The Pentagon has reported a number of recent cases of Russian jets buzzing US planes and ships in the Baltic Sea in recent months with tensions between the two side at their highest point since the Cold War over the Ukraine crisis.