Russian jets scrambled on Saturday to force a United States warship away from Russian territorial waters in the Black Sea, after Russian forces determined that the ship, the USS Ross, was acting in an “aggressive and provocative” fashion, according to media reports out of Russia.
But the U.S. military on Sunday scoffed at the Russian account of the encounter — saying that there was no confrontation at all and that the whole interaction was no more than “routine.”
Interestingly, the account of the incident did not come from the Russian Defense Ministry, the usual source of information about similar incidents between American and Russian forces, but from an unnamed source within the Russian military stationed in Crimea. The source spoke to the Russian news agency RIA Novosty.
“The crew of the ship acted provocatively and aggressively, which concerned the operators of monitoring stations and ships of the Black Sea Fleet,” the source said, adding the Russian SU-24 jets were scrambled and the pilots “demonstrated to the American crew readiness to harshly prevent a violation of the frontier and to defend the interests of the country.”
The military source then made a cryptic comment.
“It seems that the Americans did not forget the April 2014 incident when one Su-24 actually shut down all equipment on the new USS Donald Cook American destroyer with anti-missile system elements,” the source said.
The reference came to an incident last year in which a Russian Su-24 flew repeatedly about 500 feet over another U.S. warship, the USS Donald Cook. The Russians later claimed that the plane was able to shut down electronic systems on board the American vessel — a claim that military experts generally dismiss as propaganda.
The Americans flatly denied that the USS Ross on Saturday was up to any funny business.
“Ross observed the routine flights of SU-24 aircraft and had no interaction while both operated in international waters,” a statement from the U.S. Sixth Fleet said, appearing to contradict Russian claims that the jets were scrambled specifically to drive off the warship.
“Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations,” the statement concluded, reiterating that “the conduct of (the USS Ross) crew has been and continues to be professional.”
Pentagon spokesperson Eileen Lainez also issued a statement, saying that “the U.S. Navy operates routinely in the Black Sea, in accordance with international law,” which, she said, was what the USS Ross was doing — leaving the Russian jets with no reason to scramble.
The incident was just the latest in a lengthy series of confrontations between Russian jets and U.S. or NATO forces in the region
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]