Russia Says U.S. Warship Made 'Attempt' to Cross Into Its Waters, Was Pushed Away

A Russian warship blocked a U.S. Navy destroyer from what it said was a bid to enter its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan on Friday, Russia's Defense Ministry said, according to the Associated Press.

The ministry said the Russian navy ship Admiral Tributs closely approached the U.S. destroyer, USS Chafee, after it ignored multiple warnings to leave the area. The U.S. warship ultimately changed course and left after making "an attempt to cross the Russian sea border" and the two ships had come within 66 yards of each other, according to the ministry.

Russia and China had been conducting joint naval drills in Peter the Great Gulf, which the ministry said was designated as off limits, AP reported. The incident comes in the wake of other recent contact between Russian and Western ships and may signal a crackdown from Russia on any attempts from the U.S. and its allies to deploy ships on missions near its territorial waters.

The ministry decried the U.S. warship's reported encroachment as a "crude violation" of international guidelines aimed at preventing ship collisions and a 1972 deal between Moscow and Washington intended to hinder air and naval incidents.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

USS Chafee Approaches Russian Waters
Russia's Defense Ministry said a Russian warship prevented a U.S. Navy destroyer from what it described as an attempt to intrude into Russian territorial waters in the Sea of Japan. In this photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, the U.S. destroyer USS Chafee is seen from the Russian navy's Admiral Tributs destroyer near Russian territorial waters in the Sea of Japan on October 15, 2021. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

There was no immediate response from Washington.

Russia, the U.S. and its NATO allies have frequently accused each other of dangerous and provocative maneuvers at sea and in the air as Russia-West ties have been hit by Moscow's annexation of Crimea, accusations of Russian interference with elections, hacking attacks and other tensions.

In June, Russia said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs in the path of British destroyer Defender to drive it away from Black Sea waters near the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Britain denied that account, insisted its ship wasn't fired upon and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.

Like most of the world, Britain recognizes Crimea as part of Ukraine despite the peninsula's 2014 annexation by Russia.

June's incident marked the first time since the Cold War that Moscow acknowledged using live ammunition to deter a NATO warship, underlining the rising threat of military collisions amid Russia-West tensions.

In the aftermath of the incident Moscow warned that it is prepared to target intruding warships if they fail to heed warnings. In a statement intended to signal Russian resolve, Russian President Vladimir Putin charged that the incident couldn't have triggered a global conflict even if Russia had sunk the warship because the West knows it can't win such a war.

In other recent naval incidents, the Russian military said the British destroyer HMS Dragon intruded into Russian waters near Crimea in October of 2020, and the U.S. destroyer USS John S. McCain allegedly violated the Russian border in the Peter the Great Gulf in the Sea of Japan in November.

In the aftermath of those incidents, Russia rejected the U.S. and British arguments that their warships were exercising the right of so-called "innocent passage" under international maritime law.

Retired Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, the former Russian navy chief of staff, said Friday's incident could have had grave consequences. "The Americans apparently wanted to test our strength," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The Russian warship's maneuver during Friday's incident appeared to indicate Moscow's readiness to raise the stakes to prevent similar intrusions in the future.

The encounter revived memories of a Cold War incident when a Soviet frigate bumped the U.S. cruiser USS Yorktown in the Black Sea as it was making an "innocent passage" in Russian waters in 1988, damaging the U.S. warship.

Russian ship
The Russian navy ship Admiral Tributs closely approached the U.S. destroyer, USS Chafee, after what Russia said was a bid to enter its territorial waters in the Sea of Japan on Friday. Above, a Philippine navy band plays as the Admiral Tributs prepares to dock during its arrival at the international port in Manila on April 8, 2019. (TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)