Officials told the news outlet that the surveillance ship Viktor Leonov had been traveling off the coast of South Carolina and Florida early this week, with U.S. officials saying that it was operating in an “unsafe manner” by not using lights in low-visibility water. The ship was also remaining silent as other nearby ships tried to communicate about their positions to avoid accidents, the report said.
The Hill reported that the U.S. Coast Guard had to send out an emergency message to other ships to inform them of the Russian ship and its unsafe travels.
“Vessels transiting these waters should maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel. Mariners should make reports of any unsafe situations to the United States Coast Guard,” the bulletin said in part.
As The Hill noted, the Russian ship’s maneuvers could be in response to a U.S. destroyer that made a scheduled port visit to Romania in an area where the Russian military had maintained a high presence after its invasion of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014.
This is not the first time in recent months that the Russian military has appeared to test defenses near the U.S. border. In May, U.S. fighter jets were scrambled twice in one week to intercept a Russian bomber that was flying near the coast of Alaska. The Russian aircraft remained out of American airspace but did enter a buffer zone known as the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, which triggers an automatic response from the U.S. military.
As officials from the North American Aerospace Defense Command noted at the time, such incursions by Russian aircraft are not an uncommon occurrence, taking place between six and seven times a year on average.
“This is the fourth and fifth intercepts this year and the second day in a row that Russian bombers have flown into the Alaskan ADIZ,” NORAD noted at the time.
The travels of the Russian spy ship comes at a time of heightened relations between the two countries. American officials say that Russia is continuing to interfere in American elections after its campaign to interfere in 2016, and Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to joke recently that his country plans on interfering again in the 2020 presidential election.