US Navy track Russian spy ship on intelligence mission: officials

US Navy track Russian spy ship on intelligence mission: officials

WASHINGTON - The US Navy has started tracking a Russian spy ship off North Carolina, US officials say, days after the vessel departed a port in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Russian Navy’s Viktor Leonov ship was first spotted steaming in international waters 100 miles south east of Wilmington, North Carolina, CNN reported Monday night, citing two unnamed officials.

The ship is equipped with high-tech surveillance gear and can intercept communications signals, the report added.

Unnamed US military officials told CNN that the ship was observed operating in the Caribbean last week and was expected to spend four-to-six month conducting intelligence operations off the East Coast.

The Russian ship is being tracked by the destroyer USS Cole and other naval assets, the officials said.

This is apparently a routine mission, according to CNN, as the ship had sailed along the same route in on several occasions last year.

Pentagon officials said the Viktor Leonov was spotted some 20 miles south of the US Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay near the Florida border last March.

The Vishnya-class ship was also spotted off the coast of Connecticut in February 2017, lingering on international waters 30 miles away.

The Viktor Leonov performed similar missions in 2015 and 2014, the report further claimed.

Last April, American Air Force officials said they had Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace off the coast of Alaska.

The first flight involved two IL-38 maritime patrol aircraft and the second involved two Tu-95 nuclear-capable Bear bombers, which were flying around the north coast of Alaska and Canada, according to NORAD.

The US and its allies in the NATO military alliance regularly conduct spying missions off Russia’s borders, specially in the Baltic region.

Washington has also irked Russia by dispatching a strike group, including an aircraft carrier, to the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The deployment prompted Moscow to dispatch intelligence gathering vessels and chase the US naval task force