- The Washington Times - Monday, April 14, 2014

A Russian fighter jet aggressively taunted an American warship in the Black Sea by making “numerous close-range low-altitude passes” and exhibiting what some Pentagon officials described as provocative behavior and unprofessional conduct.

Army Col. Steve Warren said the fighter jet pestered the USS Donald Cook with continuous close fly-bys on Saturday while the destroyer was conducting operations in international waters. The Navy tried to communicate with the Russians, but to no avail, Col. Warren said.

“The aircraft did not respond to multiple queries and warnings from the Donald Cook,” he said. “The event ended without incident after approximately 90 minutes. This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries.”

Pentagon officials said the Russian fighter jet flew within 1,000 yards of the ship at an altitude of about 500 feet.

The jet appeared to be unarmed and never was in danger of coming in contact with the ship, said one U.S. military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the encounter. The official also said that a Russian Navy ship, a frigate, has been shadowing the U.S. warship, remaining within visual distance but not close enough to be unsafe.

The USS Donald Cook has been conducting routine operations in international waters east of Romania. The ship, which carries helicopters, was deployed to the Black Sea on April 10, in the wake of the Russian military takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region and ongoing unrest there.

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The escalation comes just as the United States is preparing to unveil to NATO leaders a list of recommendations on how to best ease the concerns of its skittish Eastern European allies after the stealthy Russian invasion and annexation of an eastern Ukraine peninsula.

The Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, is expected to discuss those options with the North Atlantic Council on Tuesday, according to Col. Warren.

Russia’s aggressive behavior is unwarranted and not conducive to an already unstable environment, Col. Warren said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, is calling for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops in the east of the country, where pro-Russian insurgents have occupied buildings in nearly 10 cities. Mr. Turchynov made the plea for assistance on Monday. Also on Monday, European Union foreign ministers met in Luxembourg to consider additional sanctions against Russian officials because of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

This article is based in part on wire service reports

• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at mybarra@washingtontimes.com.

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