Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov warned that US missile ships operating close to Russian waters in the Black Sea pose a “danger to strategic stability.”
Antonov’s comments came at an international security summit in Singapore after Russia scrambled Su-24 jets to escort US Navy destroyer USS Ross away after it was spotted heading in the direction of the Crimean peninsula on Saturday.
According to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the US ship was seen heading towards the disputed region, which Russia claims as its own after annexing it from Ukraine last year, after it left the Romanian port of Constanta.
“The crew of the ship acted provocatively and aggressively, which concerned the operators of monitoring stations and ships of the Black Sea Fleet,” an unnamed security source in Crimea was quoted saying in the RIA Novosti report.
US Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez confirmed the incident, but insisted that the USS Ross crew had acted “well within international waters at all times, performing routine operations.”
“The US Navy operates routinely in the Black Sea, in accordance with international law," Lainez added.
Last week, the US joined northern European countries for the beginning of an air training exercise with almost 100 jets in the Arctic region near Russia.
The exercise involved Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Finland with 4,000 personnel aimed to test security cooperation.
Russia has been at loggerheads with the West since annexing Crimea in April 2014 following a referendum held by the local authorities.
The referendum was held after the ethnic Russian-dominated autonomous Crimean government declared independence from Ukraine after former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych fled pro-EU protests in Kiev.
Russia has allegedly been increasing its military activities in the Baltic and the Nordic region where its planes and submarines have been intercepted since last year, while also holding joint military drills with the Chinese navy in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea.
However, the parties involved in the Arctic exercises stated that the drill, which is due to last till June 5, had been planned before Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Russia nonetheless in turn launched an air force exercise with 250 aircraft, 12,000 personnel and military hardware a day after the first day of the Arctic drill.