A Russian Navy intelligence-gathering ship is operating in an “unsafe manner” off the eastern coast of the United States, according to a maritime safety information bulletin issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday.
“The United States Coast Guard has received reports indicating that the RFN Viktor Leonov (AGI-175) has been operating in an unsafe manner off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia,” the notice said.
“This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements”, it added.
The notice also warned local vessels to steer clear of the Russian ship, advising they “maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel.”
“We are aware of Russia’s naval activities, including the deployment of intelligence collection ships in the region,” The Washington Times quoted a U.S. Northern Command spokesperson as saying. “While we won’t discuss specific measures being taken, NORAD and USNORTHCOM routinely conduct air and maritime operations to ensure the defense of the United States and Canada.”
According to a CNN report citing a defense official, the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG-72) is operating close to the Russian ship.
According to multiple reports, Viktor Leonov is regularly seen in international waters off the U.S. east coast since 2015. The east coast hosts major U.S. naval bases including Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, Naval Station Mayport in Floria and the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.
Viktor Leonov (175)
Viktor Leonov is a Project 864 Vishnya-class intelligence-gathering ship (spy ship) of the Russian Navy.
The Vishnya-class vessels are large, purpose-built ships designed for signals intelligence (SIGINT) gathering via an extensive array of sensors. The data could be transmitted to shore via satellite link antennas housed in two large radomes.
The ships are also armed with two AK-630 close-in weapon systems and SA-N-8 surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers, for self-defense.