The Russian spy ship which we mentioned yesterday had unexpectedly appeared off the US East Coast, some 70 miles off the Delaware coast, has been gingerly moving north along the Eastern Seaboard, and according to press reports, was spotted on Wednesday "loitering" just 30 miles from a major submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. US officials have been keeping a close watch on the Viktor Leonov during its first Atlantic mission since US President Donald Trump was elected as it traveled through international waters.
The Cold War-era SSV-175 Viktor Leonov warship is an intelligence-gathering vessel loaded with high-tech electronic spying equipment that can monitor and collect data on US Navy sonar. The ship is also armed with anti-aircraft missiles and guns in the event of an attack. American officials have downplayed the spy ship's presence in international waters, although should it get closer, that may change.
With a crew of about 150 to 200 military personnel, the 310ft Viktor Leonov can transmit data back to superiors via a satellites uplink. For self-defence the ship, along with six other similar Vishnya class spy vessels, is said to be armed with two AK-630 rapid-fire guns and two missile launchers.
At last check, the ship was said to be located 30 miles south of Groton, Connecticut, where the New London submarine base is located, on Wednesday. Grotton is known as the "home of the submarine force" and is the primary east coast submarine base for the US.
The official said the Viktor Leonov was "loitering" in international waters. Officials at the Pentagon believe the ship will eventually sail south along the US coast and return to the Caribbean, Fox News reported. In recent weeks it has crossed the Atlantic and stopped in Jamaica as part of a journey that had been planned for months.
US Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, expressed concern over the ship's presence. He wrote on Twitter: "Russia is acting like it has a permission slip to expand influence, test limits of reach. Questions are obvious: does it, and if so, why?"
So far the ship has continued its reconnaisance trip unprovoked. As reported last night, last Friday four Russian jets flew past a US Navy missile-destroyer, the USS Porter, in the Black Sea, ignoring radio calls from the ship. Additionally, the US believes Russia has secretly deployed two battalions of SSC-X-8 cruise missiles, a move that would violate a 1987 treaty, however Russia has denied the deployment is in breach of the treaty.
US-Russia relations have been under intense scrutiny after Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after just three weeks on the job as it emerged that he held phone conversations with Moscow's ambassador to the United States before the president took office and later misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations. Flynn was seen in Moscow as a leading advocate of warmer ties with Russia. A member of Trump's administration said the president knew for weeks that Flynn had misled the White House about his contacts with Russia but did not immediately force him out, Reuters reported.
Earlier today, Trump has suggested there is a media conspiracy and denied the notion of a "Russian connection" in response to a New York Times report which said members of his presidential campaign had contact with Russian intelligence officials.
This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
Trump tweeted on Wednesday: "This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign." The Kremlin has also denied the reports.