Moscow brushes off ‘distressed’ U.S. reactions to close encounters with U.S. destroyer

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Russia defended the pilots of two Su-24s that buzzed an American guided-missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea.

The Russian jets approached the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) on April 11 at an “unsafe” speed and altitude, a U.S. official told Fox News. On April 12, U.S. officials said a Russian jet came within 75 feet of the destroyer.

A Sukhoi Su-24 jet makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook on April 12. /U.S. Navy/Reuters
A Russian Su-24 makes a low altitude pass by the USS Donald Cook. /U.S. Navy/Reuters

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Moscow was surprised by the “distressed reaction of our American counterparts.”

Russia acted “in accordance with international rules,” Konashenkov said on April 14.

The Cook “encountered multiple, aggressive flight maneuvers by Russian aircraft that were performed within close proximity of the ship,” the U.S. European Command said in a statement.

“We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers.”

Officials said the destroyer had a Polish helicopter on board as part of routine training, leading to speculation Russia was “sending a message to Poland.” Flight operations by the Polish helicopter were interrupted because one of the Russian overflights was so close, the officials said.

The Cook had been shadowed by a Russian intelligence-gathering ship for some time and had radioed a Russian ship that it was conducting routine operations, U.S. officials said.

In October 2015, U.S. Navy jets intercepted two Russian Tu-142 aircraft flying near the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the Pacific Ocean.

In June 2015, a Russian Su-24 jet flew within 500 meters (1,640 feet) of a U.S. guided-missile destroyer sailing in the Black Sea near Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine.

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