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U.S. Accuses Russian Warship of 'Unsafe' Maneuver in Mediterranean

A Russian frigate allegedly kept moving closer to a U.S. destroyer under a false flag that indicated it had limited ability to maneuver.
Handout photo of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely during the an exercise conducted in the western Caribbean Sea
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely executes a drill during multinational exercises in the western Caribbean Sea in September 2012.U.S. Navy / Reuters

The U.S. military says a Russian naval warship interfered with two U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea in the latest of a series of unsafe maneuvers alleged to have been conducted by Russian forces.

U.S. European Command said a Russian frigate approached within two miles of the U.S. destroyer Gravely in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on June 17. As the frigate tried to draw closer, it repeatedly warned the U.S. ship to maintain a safe distance, the command said.

The frigate was flying a flag used to indicate restricted maneuvering, but European Command said in a statement that the supposedly restricted frigate matched the Gravely's moves. The frigate "was not in fact restricted in her ability to maneuver, and was thus intentionally displaying a false international signal," European Command said.

"These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident which results in serious injury or death," European Command said.

But Russia's Defense Ministry claimed that the Gravely was the aggressor and got dangerously close to the frigate. In a statement, the Russian government said U.S. sailors broke international rules governing when one vessel overtakes a slower one, according to the Russian news organization RT.

"US sailors allow themselves to neglect key foundations of navigation safety without thinking of the consequences that dangerous maneuvering in a heavily trafficked maritime area might involve,” the statement said.

Related: Russian Flyby of U.S. Destroyer Alarms Experts

U.S. European Command said the Gravely was operating along with the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman supporting efforts to combat ISIS.

The command accused the Russian ship of "intentionally trying to interfere with Harry S. Truman operations," calling the maneuver "unsafe and unprofessional maritime operations."

Tensions between the two militaries have been heightened by a series of incidents in recent months.

In April, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet performed a barrel roll over a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea, U.S. military officials said.

A few weeks earlier, two unarmed Russian Su-24 fighter jets performed a series of extremely low passes over the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea. Video captured the aircraft buzzing the ship.