Russian destroyer fires shots to warn off Turkish boat

Russian warship Smetlivy in the Bosphorus in Istanbul. The ship was anchored off the Greek island of Lemnos when the incident occurred yesterday.
Russian warship Smetlivy in the Bosphorus in Istanbul. The ship was anchored off the Greek island of Lemnos when the incident occurred yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Moscow says it was to avoid a collision, summons Ankara's military attache

MOSCOW • A Russian destroyer in the Aegean Sea yesterday used small arms fire to prevent a collision with a Turkish vessel, Moscow said, adding that it had summoned Ankara's military attache over the incident.

The incident comes at a time of tense ties between the two countries. Last month, Turkey downed a Russian bomber at the Syrian border, saying it had crossed into its airspace. Russia has disputed this, leading to the biggest crisis in relations between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.

Yesterday, the Russian defence ministry said, the crew of Russian patrol ship Smetlivy fired small arms to warn the Turkish boat.

"The crew of the Smetlivy, which was located 22km from the Greek island of Lemnos in the northern part of the Aegean Sea, avoided collision with a Turkish seiner," it said.

The Russian warship, which was at anchor, first spotted the Turkish fishing boat some 1,000m away, the defence ministry said, adding that the boat had been approaching it from the right.

NO RESPONSE

Despite numerous attempts by the Smetlivy, the crew of the Turkish seiner would not engage in radio contact and did not respond to special visual signals.

RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY

"Despite numerous attempts by the Smetlivy, the crew of the Turkish seiner would not engage in radio contact and did not respond to special visual signals," it added.

Moscow said the crew had to fire small arms in the direction of the boat at "a guaranteed survivability distance" when there were some 600m between the two vessels "to prevent the collision of the ships".

"Immediately after that, the Turkish vessel drastically changed course and continued its movement past the Smetlivy at a distance of 540m without engaging in contact with the Russian crew," the ministry said.

Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov urgently summoned a Turkish military attache, it added.

After the downing of the warplane last month, which led to the deaths of a pilot and a serviceman who attempted to rescue him, Russia introduced economic sanctions against Turkey and beefed up its firepower at its airbase in Syria.

Last Friday, President Vladimir Putin delivered a thinly veiled warning to Ankara and told his forces in Syria to take tough action against any threats. "I would like to warn those who would once again try to organise some sort of provocation against our servicemen," said Mr Putin, who has called the warplane incident a "stab in the back".

Turkey maintains it was defending its territory after previous border violations. Last Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara's patience with Moscow after the incident was "not unlimited", and urged Moscow to react calmly.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Russian destroyer fires shots to warn off Turkish boat'. Print Edition | Subscribe