A Russian fighter jet made multiple, close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region, a US military official said today. In the first public account of the incident, the official said the Russian Fencer flew within 1,000 yards of the USS Donald Cook, a Navy destroyer, at about 500 feet above sea level. Ship commanders considered the actions provocative and in violation of international agreements, prompting the ship to issue several radio queries and warnings. The fighter appeared to be unarmed and never was in danger of coming in contact with the ship, said the official, and the passes, which occurred in the early evening there, ended without incident.
The USS Donald Cook has been conducting routine operations in international waters east of Romania. The ship, which carries helicopters, was deployed to the Black Sea on Thursday, in the wake of the Russian military takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region and ongoing unrest there. The official also said that a Russian Navy ship, a frigate, has been shadowing the US warship, remaining within visual distance but not close enough to be unsafe. Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov today called for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops in the east of the country, where pro-Russian insurgents have occupied buildings in nearly 10 cities, and EU foreign ministers are meeting today to consider additional sanctions against Russian officials.