Russia Is Prepared to Strike Foreign Naval Vessels, Says Military Official

Russia would be prepared to strike foreign naval vessels that illegally enter its territorial waters, a senior Russian military official said on Monday.

Such a decision would only be made at the "highest level," Stanislav Gadzhimagomedov, deputy head of the main operational department of the general staff, told a roundtable of Russia's Federation Council, according to local media outlets.

He made the remarks when answering a question about a U.S. submarine that Moscow claimed entered Russian territorial waters on February 12.

"We are always ready. But the fact is that such decisions are made only at the highest level," he said.

Earlier, Russia's Ministry of Defense said that a Virginia-class submarine of the U.S. Navy had breached its territorial waters and entered the Kuril Islands at 10.40 a.m. local time on Saturday. The ministry said the move marked a "major violation of international law."

The Russian Navy conducts exercises in the Kuril area.

The Russian ministry of defense said in a statement that a Russian navy destroyer used "appropriate means" against the U.S. vessel after it refused an order to surface on Saturday. The vessel then fled at "maximum speed," according to the statement.

The Navy denied the allegations. Captain Kyle Raines, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesman, said U.S. submarines work exclusively in international waters, and that there is "no truth to the Russian claims of our operations in their territorial waters."

"I will not comment on the precise location of our submarines but we do fly, sail, and operate safely in international waters," Raines told Russian state-run news agency TASS on Sunday.

Gadzhimagomedov told the roundtable on Monday that Russia is currently able to effectively counter the U.S. Navy in the Black and Baltic Seas, but that it doesn't yet have enough ships and aircraft in the Far East.

He said: "If you take it purely in terms of the fleet, the superiority of Americans in terms of the number of ships and response capabilities is much higher than ours."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov separately said on Monday that the Russian military strictly observes protocol in taking action against foreign ships and submarines that may enter Russia's territorial waters.

"Of course, our military, who are responsible for the protection of our borders, for the security of our country, strictly adhere to these protocols," Peskov said.

It comes amid rising tensions between Russia and the U.S. as fears grow of a potential Moscow-led invasion of Ukraine. Russia has denied any plans to invade Ukraine, although Western officials estimate Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border.

In a roughly hour-long call on Sunday, President Joe Biden told Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the U.S. would respond "swiftly and decisively" to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine.

"The two leaders agreed on the importance of continuing to pursue diplomacy and deterrence in response to Russia's military build-up on Ukraine's borders," a White House readout of the call said.

Newsweek has contacted the Pentagon for comment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov (C) inspect warships during the Navy Day parade in St.Petersburg on July 25, 2021. Russia said on Monday it would be prepared to strike foreign naval vessels should they illegally cross into its territorial waters. ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images