Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Russian Su-24 Fencer fighter jet passes near USS Donald Cook warship

A US Navy sailor mans a gun on the deck of the USS Donald Cook, in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A US Navy sailor mans a gun on the deck of the USS Donald Cook, in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
The USS Donald Cook is docked in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, April 14, 2014.  (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
The USS Donald Cook is docked in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Photo of an Su-24 of the Russian Air Force. Photo: Alexander Mishin
Photo of an Su-24 of the Russian Air Force. Photo: Alexander Mishin

A Russian fighter jet made multiple close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes on Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region, a US military official said.

In the first public account of the incident, the official said the Russian Su-24 Fencer flew within 1,000 yards (900 metres) of the USS Donald Cook, a navy destroyer, at about 500ft (150 metres) above sea level.

Ship commanders considered the actions provocative and inconsistent with international agreements, prompting the ship to issue several radio queries and warnings.

The fighter appeared to be unarmed and was never in danger of coming in contact with the ship, said the official. The passes, which occurred in the early evening there, ended without incident.

The official also said that a Russian navy ship, a frigate, has been shadowing the US 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.

Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov on Monday called 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. The gunmen are demanding more autonomy from the central government and closer ties with Russia.

The West has accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest. And European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg on Monday to consider additional sanctions against Russian officials because of Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

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