Russian spy ship, the Viktor Leonov, is causing anxiety with its presence near the United States' east coast. Officials, who asked not to be named, disclosed that the Russian vessel was in the Caribbean and is now heading toward the Florida coast.
“We have a general awareness that it's in the area,” a Pentagon spokesman said, explaining that “the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Fleet Forces track all vessels, foreign and domestic, and we're well aware of what is in the area.”
“Viktor Leonov arrived in Port of Spain and departed the morning of January 15 after spending five days restocking her stores,” Steffan Watkins, a Canadian security analyst, said. Watkins explained that the short stayover was unusual since visits have lasted as much as 6 months in Cuba and Nicaragua.
“We're monitoring (the ship) It's an annual thing,” a U.S. official told the Washington Free Beacon newspaper. “We've seen it off Cape Canaveral, Florida; Kings Bay, Georgia; Norfolk, Virginia; and New London, Connecticut.”
Lawmakers expressed concern that the ship was gathering information on Naval Submarine Base New London, the U.S. Navy's primary submarine base on the East Coast. The Viktor Leonov is a high-tech 300-feet-long spy ship equipped with surveillance equipment capable of intercepting electronic signals, including radio.
The United States houses 10 nuclear missile submarines at Kings Bay.
Last February, U.S. President Donald Trump said that relations with Russia were “not good” adding that “the greatest thing” he “could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water,” referring to the Viktor Leonov near Connecticut.
But, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis, said at the time: “There’s been a lot made of this Russian ship, the Viktor Leonov, reported to be off the East Coast of the U.S. It’s not something we’ve seen where they’ve entered U.S. territorial waters, and as such, it's lawful and very similar to operations we do in places around the world.”
In a statement to Newsweek, the United States Southern Command said: “We are aware of Russian naval activities in our hemisphere. We work closely with our interagency partners to be aware of maritime contacts of interest while recognizing the right of sovereign nations to freely navigate in international waters and visit countries they have agreements with. Freedom of the seas applies to all maritime nations, all navies, everywhere—so long as they understand and comply with internationally-recognized responsibilities that come with that freedom.”