Wednesday 19 June 2019

Russian and US warships close to collision in East China Sea

A Russian destroyer, left, sails up to the USS Chancellorsville. Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher J Krucke via AP
A Russian destroyer, left, sails up to the USS Chancellorsville. Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher J Krucke via AP

Andrew Osborn

Russia and the United States blamed each other for a near collision between their warships in the East China Sea yesterday with both countries accusing one another of dangerous and unprofessional behaviour.

Moscow's Pacific Fleet said the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser, had come within just 50 metres of the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov which had been forced to take emergency action to avoid a collision, Russian news agencies reported.

They cited a Pacific Fleet statement as saying the incident took place in the early hours of yesterday morning in the eastern part of the East China Sea at a time when a group of Russian warships was on a parallel course with a US naval strike group.

"The US guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed course and cut across the path of the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov coming within 50 metres of the ship," the statement said.

"A protest over the international radio frequency was made to the commanders of the American ship who were warned about the unacceptable nature of such actions," it said.

That version of events was rejected by the US Navy, which said the behaviour of the Russian ship had been "unsafe and unprofessional".

"While operating in the Philippine Sea, a Russian Destroyer made an unsafe manoeuvre against USS Chancellorsville," US Seventh Fleet spokesman Commander Clayton Doss said.

"This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to manoeuvre to avoid collision."

He described a Russian assertion that the American ship had acted dangerously as "propaganda".

The Russian destroyer came within 50 to 100 feet (15-30 metres) of the Chancellorsville, he said, putting the safety of crew and ship at risk.

The incident comes only days after Washington and Moscow sparred over an allegedly unsafe spy plane intercept by a Russian fighter jet near Syria.

Both countries regularly accuse the other of dangerous military manoeuvres - at sea and in the air.

Irish Independent

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