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US, Russia blame each other in near-collision of warships

The U.S. 7th Fleet said the Russian destroyer put the safety of the USS Chancellorsville and its crew at risk, forcing it to reverse all engines at full throttle to avoid a collision.

Posted: Jun 7, 2019 10:40 AM
Updated: Jun 7, 2019 10:55 AM

By LOLITA C. BALDOR and MARI YAMAGUCHI Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and Russia accused each other of unsafe actions on Friday after an American guided-missile cruiser and a Russian destroyer came within 165 feet (50 meters) of each other in the East China Sea.

The U.S. 7th Fleet said the Russian destroyer put the safety of the USS Chancellorsville and its crew at risk, forcing it to reverse all engines at full throttle to avoid a collision.

It said a helicopter that was operating at sea was preparing to land on the Chancellorsville, which was traveling on a steady course, when the Russian destroyer, traveling behind the U.S. ship, speeded up and approached as close as 50-100 feet (15-30 meters).

Clay Doss, spokesman for the Japan-based 7th Fleet, said no one was injured and he was not aware of any damage to the ship.

"We consider Russia's actions during this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional and not in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), 'Rules of the Road,' and internationally recognized maritime customs," the 7th Fleet said in a statement.

It was the first such incident involving warships in the region since September, when a Chinese ship maneuvered close to an American destroyer in the South China Sea, an incident the U.S. also labeled unprofessional and unsafe.

The U.S. has repeatedly complained in recent years that Russian planes have flown dangerously close to American aircraft and the two nations routinely shadow each other in international airspace.

In this latest incident, in open ocean northeast of the Philippines, the Russian military accused the Chancellorsville of making a dangerous maneuver by crossing the path of the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov.

It said in a statement that the U.S. cruiser "suddenly changed direction and crossed the path of Admiral Vinogradov just 50 meters (165 feet) away," forcing the crew of the Russian ship to make a quick maneuver to avoid collision.

The Russian military said its navy sent a radio message in protest.

With U.S.-Russian relations at post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and Moscow's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Russian and U.S. militaries have frequently exchanged accusations of what they describe as unsafe maneuvers by the other side's warplanes and navy ships.

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