Russia shadows US Navy destroyer in dramatic video amid warnings to ‘turn back’ from its territorial waters in Sea of Japan

Russia accused the US Navy of attempting to enter its territorial waters during joint military drills with China in the Sea of Japan before it was “turned back”.

The Russian Defence Ministry released video footage it says showed the USS Chafee up close with anti-submarine vessel Admiral Tributs, which radioed a warning to the US destroyer that it was “in an area closed to navigation due to exercises with artillery fire,” according to the Interfax news agency, reported by Reuters.

The Russian defence ministry summoned the US military attache over the “unprofessional actions” of the USS Chafee, the RIA news agency reported.

A spokesperson for the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet told The Independent in a statement that Russia’s account of the interaction was "fasle".

"A Russian Udaloy-class destroyer came within approximately 65 yards of USS Chafee (DDG 90) while the ship was preparing for flight operations. The interaction was safe and professional," the statement said.

"Although Russia issued a Notice to Airman and Mariners in this area for later in the day, the NOTAM/NOTMAR was not in effect at the time of the interaction. At all times, USS Chafee conducted operations in accordance with international law and custom. The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate where international law allows.”

The Russian state media agency Tass put out the Kremlin’s claim of the encounter, which said the USS Chafee was “turned back” at about 5.50 pm local time on Friday.

“The destroyer USS Chafee, convinced of the determination of the crew of the Russian ship not to violate the state border, changed direction,” the statement claimed.

According to Moscow’s version of events, the USS Chafee had maintained course and raised flags indicating the launch of a helicopter from its deck, making it unable to change course and speed, Reuters reported. The video released by the Russian government shows a helicopter with its rotors spinning at the back of the ship.

Russian Defence Ministry release video of encounter with warship in Sea of Japan (Russian Defence Ministry)
Russian Defence Ministry release video of encounter with warship in Sea of Japan (Russian Defence Ministry)

“Acting within the framework of the international rules of navigation, the Admiral Tributs set a course for ousting the intruder from Russian territorial waters,” Russia’s Defence ministry claimed.

The encounter was said to have lasted about 50 minutes in Peter the Great Bay, south of Vladivostok.

In June, Moscow claimed it forced the British destroyer, the HMS Defender, from the Black Sea near Crimea, which the UK and the international community maintain remain the territorial waters of Ukraine after Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula in 2014.

In an interview with the BBC, the Defender’s captain, Commander Vince Owen, said they deliberately sailed close to the Crimean coast in Ukraine’s international waters.

“With the UK and the Royal Navy, our deployment is here to maintain international order, and uphold that for the global peace and security,” Mr Owen told the BBC.

“The Royal Navy and UK will always call out states that do not follow international order,” he added. “That’s our mission.”

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