A Russian spy ship was reportedly spotted lingering in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Montauk Point on Wednesday, although opinions differed on whether it was cause for significant concern.
The Viktor Leonov, a Russian Navy intelligence warship that had been previously seen traveling up the East Coast, was reported to be about 30 miles south of New London, Conn., where the U.S. Navy has a submarine base, according to Fox News, which cited anonymous U.S. officials.
“It’s not a huge concern, but we are keeping our eyes on it,” the cable news channel quoted an unnamed official as saying.
That’s because it’s not the first time that the vessel was seen off the U.S. mainland. The 309-foot-long ship, outfitted with electronic surveillance equipment, docked in Cuba in 2014, Reuters reported. Russian media outlet RT reported that the ship returned to Cuba the following year and was later spotted near a U.S. sub base in Kings Bay, Ga.
The Viktor Leonov‘s location Wednesday off Long Island was reportedly the furthest north off the U.S. coast it had ever trekked, though still within international waters. Its close presence comes just days after President Trump ordered the resignation of Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as the administration’s national security advisor, after reports surfaced that Flynn had not disclosed to Vice President Michael Pence that he’d had conversations with Moscow’s ambassador to the United States about American sanctions against Russia in December. The Russian spy ship also visits on the heels of Russia’s recent deployment of ground-based nuke-capable cruise missiles inside that country, reportedly in violation of an arms treaty between Washington and Moscow.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) questioned the motives of the spy ship and those of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose military aircraft also buzzed American warships Tuesday off the coast of Ukraine.
“The Russian spy ship patrolling 30 miles off the coast of Groton and the sub base underscores the very real threat posed by a resurgent Russia,” Courtney said. “This unacceptable, aggressive action, combined with the buzzing of U.S. Navy ships in the Black Sea yesterday, is a clear indication that Russia is testing the resolve of the new administration. I have total confidence in our Navy’s vigilant, responsible readiness, but the White House needs to move past their infatuation with Putin and treat him like the serious threat to global peace that he has been for the last five years.”
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a member of the foreign affairs committee whose East End district includes Montauk, also expressed concern about the situation.
“This latest activity is reportedly consistent with, but further north than, the ship’s past activity,” he said. “My office has requested more information from officials. I will continue to monitor the situation closely, and I will share updates as we can.
“Russia’s increased aggression is a direct threat,” his statement continued. “Vladimir Putin aspires to be Vladimir the Great and probably would love to put the U.S.S.R. back together again if he could. Russia is our adversary, meddling in ways globally that are putting American service members and the security of the free world at risk.”