US, Russian warships ‘nearly collide’ in Pacific

Washington: The warships of the United States and Russia came close to a collision in the Pacific, with the two countries blaming each other for the incident.

According to two opposing accounts, the US and Russian warships came somewhere between 50 feet and 165 feet of each other, with both sides alleging that their ships were forced to perform “emergency manoeuvers” to dodge the mishap, CNN reported.

“A Russian destroyer made an unsafe manoeuvre against USS Chancellorsville, closing to 50-100 feet, putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk,” US Navy spokesperson Commander Clayton Doss told CNN in a statement.

“This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to manoeuvre to avoid the collision,” Doss added.

However, Russia’s Pacific Fleet claimed that it was the US warship which “changed its direction” that resulted in the near-collision incident, according to state-run RIA-Novosti news agency.

“When moving (on) parallel courses of a detachment of ships of the Pacific Fleet and a carrier group of the US Navy, the cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its direction and crossed within 50 meters of the Admiral Vinogradov forcing the Russian destroyer to take emergency evasive action,” CNN quoted the Russian agency as saying.

According to the US Navy, the incident occurred in the Philippine Sea while the Russian report said that it happened in the East China Sea.

The incident comes days after Washington accused Moscow of intercepting a US aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea thrice in just under three hours, amid tensions between the two countries.

Calling the incident, “unsafe and unprofessional”, Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan had voiced concern about the safety of sailors and said Washington will hold “military to military” talks with Moscow in order to issue a demarche to them.

“We’ll have military to military conversations with the Russians and of course we’ll demarche them. To me its safety that is most important. It will not deter us when conducting our operations,” he had told reporters in Washington.