Washington, April 14 (IANS) Russia acted “in accordance with international rules” when its unarmed fighter jets had two close encounters with the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, Russia’s defence ministry said on Thursday.
Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov spoke to Russian state news agency Tass on the incident.
Initial reports indicate two encounters with the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer occurred Tuesday night in international waters, reports CNN.
One of the Russian jets flew within 75 feet of the US ship’s superstructure.
The USS David Cook “encountered multiple, aggressive flight manoeuvers by Russian aircraft that were performed within close proximity of the ship”, the US European Command said in a statement.
“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight manoeuvers,” the statement said.
A US official described the Russian manoeuver as “strafing runs” without firing any weapons. The unarmed Russian aircraft swooped in over the deck in the same flight profile that would have been used if an attack were underway.
The Pentagon released dramatic video of the jets flying extremely close to the USS Donald Cook more than 30 times over two days.
The Russian planes raced by the US Navy destroyer low and fast, over and over. Pictures taken from on board the ship show just how dangerously close they came during some of their passes, the official said.
Russian defence ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Thursday the Su-24 fighter jet pilots saw the ship and then turned back “while using all measures of precaution”.
Konashenkov claimed the ministry was baffled by what he described as the “distressed reaction of our American counterparts”, according to CBS News.
“The principle of freedom of navigation for the US destroyer, which is staying in close proximity to a Russian naval base in the Baltic Sea, does not at all cancel the principle of freedom of flight for Russian aircraft,” Konashenkov said.
A pair of Russian attack jets flew 20 passes on the ship Monday, coming as close as 1,000 yards at an altitude of 100 feet, ignoring radio calls from the USS Cook and forcing the ship to cancel flight operations.
On Tuesday, a Russian helicopter circled the Cook, taking photographs, followed by another pair of attack jets that showed up and buzzed the Cook 11 times — this time coming within an estimated 30 feet of the ship.
This was the latest and most striking in a series of incidents over the past two years in which Russian aircraft have challenged NATO ships and planes.
US officials believe the actions violated an agreement signed in the 1970s with the Soviet Union, which remains in force with Russia and specifically prohibits running simulated attack profiles against ships, said CBS News.