Russia says its warplanes respected all safety protocols when they buzzed a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea earlier this week.
The U.S. European Command said the Russian jets buzzed the USS Donald Cook multiple times on Monday and Tuesday in what was described as a “simulated attack profile.”
The pair of attack jets flew 20 passes on the ship on Monday, coming as close as 1,000 yards at an altitude of 100 feet, ignoring radio calls from the Cook and forcing the ship to cancel flight operations, U.S. European Command said.
On Tuesday, a Russian helicopter circled the ship, taking photographs, followed by another pair of jets that buzzed the Cook 11 times, coming within an estimated 30 feet of the ship.
But on Thursday, Russian defense officials denied accusations that the fly-bys were aggressive.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, said on Thursday that the pilots of Russian Su-24 jets saw the ship and turned back “while using all measures of precaution,” The Associated Press reported.
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He said the ministry was baffled by what he described as the “distressed reaction of our American counterparts.”
“The principle of freedom of navigation for the U.S. destroyer, which is staying in close proximity to a Russian naval base in the Baltic Sea, does at all not cancel the principle of freedom of flight for Russian aircraft,” Mr. Konashenkov said.