Washington (CNN)-The U.S. Navy took the unusual step Monday of releasing video of a Russian Su-24 aircraft flying past the right side of the guided missile destroyer USS Ross in the Black Sea.
The video was distributed to make clear that the airplanes and ship had a routine encounter, contrary to Russian reports. It shows a warplane approaching from the distance and then quickly zooming past the American vessel.
The Ross was 25 miles off the coast of Crimea in international waters when six Russian Su-24s went by.
The Russian aircraft were not armed, according to a U.S. defense official, and the entire matter was considered routine.
Russian media claimed that the planes forced the warship to head away from Russian territorial waters. But the U.S. Navy said the Ross never changed course and proceeded on its mission, which was in international waters.
In a video released by U.S. Naval Forces Europe, one of the Russian planes is shown flying an estimated 500 meters (1,640 feet) off the side of the ship at an altitude of 600 feet.
The Navy said it would not have released the video if it didn't want to publicly counter the Russian reports.
The incident comes as Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned about the danger of a summer offensive by pro-Russian separatists, who have seized Crimea from Ukraine.
"We are looking at Russian activities, at the activities of separatists. It's a serious possibility and a serious danger," Carter told the BBC in an interview published Monday.
USS Ross (DDG 71) observes the overflight by a Russian SU 24 aircraft while both were operating in international waters and airspace. Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations. The conduct of her crew has been and continues to be professional. Ross' Sailors observed that the SU 24 carried no weapons - wings were "clean."
The U.S. Navy operates ships in the Black Sea on a routine basis, consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law."
By Steven Beardsley Stars and Stripes Published: June 2, 2015
NAPLES, Italy — The Navy released two videos that it says show Russian jets flying by American and Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea in recent days, its latest response to Russian reports the aircraft had forced a U.S. warship to change its course Saturday.
Those reports, first published by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, claimed several Russian Su-24 attack aircraft were scrambled to confront the destroyer USS Ross, whose crew had acted “provocatively and aggressively,” according to an unnamed source.
The Navy had already disputed the reports on Sunday, saying the ship was operating in international waters, had no intention of entering Russian waters and did not change operations. It said the Russian jets appeared to be conducting routine flight operations.
Navy Capt. Brenda Malone, spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, said the videos were an effort to show what really happened.
“It was truly a non-event,” she said of the Saturday flight. “We were surprised to see the reporting and thought it was important to respond to it and correct the record.”
The two videos, posted Monday to the command’s YouTube channel, claim to show the overflight from Saturday, as well as a similar pass on Monday, when the Ross was exercising with the Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy.
In both instances, the jets pass to the side of the ships before veering off. A caption below each video notes the aircraft carried no ordnance.
Encounters with Su-24 jets have become more common for U.S. warships operating in the Black Sea over the past year, Malone said. She said Navy considers the flight operations routine, not provocative or aggressive.
“It’s not unusual for a cruise, for ships in the Black Sea, to see Russian aircraft operating in international airspace,” she said.
Russia is sensitive about American and NATO deployments to the Black Sea, a traditional seat of Moscow’s naval power. The U.S. has sharply increased its deployments to the region, averaging almost one Black Sea visit a month compared to a handful annually before 2014.
The U.S. has accused Russian pilots of acting recklessly in the past. The destroyer USS Donald Cook was buzzed by Su-24 jets during a similar visit to the Black Sea in April 2014, according to the Navy. As in the Ross incident, the aircraft were said to be flying without ordnance.
The Navy says its ships remain in international waters, unless scheduled for a port call, and follow rules set out by the Montreux Convention, an international agreement that governs foreign warship visits in the Black Sea.
The Ross entered the Black Sea on May 23 and conducted exercises with the Romanian navy before beginning a two-day exercise with the Ukrainian frigate on Monday.