A Russian spy ship which had been been sailing off the coast of South Carolina and Florida for the past few days has been a source of alarm for US authorities who say it's been operating in an “unsafe” and “erratic” manner.
It prompted an unusual US Coast Guard alert which warned boaters off South Carolina and Georgia to "use extreme caution", especially given the Russian ship, the Viktor Leonov, is avoiding any communication or direct contact with other ships alerting them to its passage, CNN reports. Though not unusual, the ship also turned off its locator when it got near the US coast.
"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 Coast Guard bulletin 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."
"Vessels transiting these waters should maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel. Mariners should make reports of any unsafe situations to the United States Coast Guard," it added.
Other reports suggest it was operating near a US submarine base, before heading south again into international waters early this week. It's been spotted most recently near the Bahamas, with the USS Mahan destroyer said to be shadowing the ship.
The Viktor Leonov has regularly patrolled in the Atlantic and Caribbean near the US coast since 2015. In 2017 Trump actually threatened to attack Russian ships that got too close, but no such incidents have materialized.
“Hey, the greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water," Trump said in that provocative January 2017 statement. "Everyone in this country is going to say, 'Oh, it's so great.' That's not great. That's not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia."