The Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov is currently “loitering” off the coast of Norfolk, Va., home to the largest naval base in the world, two U.S. officials tell Fox News.
KREMLIN REPORTEDLY ORDERED STATE MEDIA TO TONE DOWN TRUMP COVERAGE
As of Friday morning, the Russian spy ship is slowly patrolling only 17 nautical miles — roughly 19 miles — from land, according to officials. United States territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from shore.
Fox News was first to report the sighting of the Russian spy ship off the coast of Delaware on Tuesday.
THE WEEK IN PICTURES
The Victor Leonov, armed with an array of intelligence gathering equipment used to intercept communications and analyze U.S. Navy sonar capability, later traveled within 30 miles off the Connecticut coast near a submarine base earlier this week.
“It’s lawful [and] similar to operations we do around the world,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Friday.
The Russian spy ship left her homeport in the Barents Sea near Norway, part of Russia’s northern fleet, around New Year’s Day, according to American defense officials. Following a port call in Jamaica, the Russian ship then began its voyage north along the east coast of the United States.
The deployment of the Russian intelligence-gathering ship was likely planned for months before it set sail in early January, according to U.S. defense officials. They said it apparently was not tied to the Obama administration’s Dec. 29 order that Moscow shut down two of its “vacation” properties, which the U.S. government said were used to intercept American communications. One was on New York’s Long Island and the other was at Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
It’s the first time the Viktor Leonov has appeared off the east coast of the United States since April 2015. The ship was spotted in Havana Harbor in January 2015 as the Obama administration eased relations with Cuba. U.S. officials have said they believe the Russian spy ship will eventually make its way back to the Caribbean.
At a White House Press conference Thursday, President Donald Trump was asked about the Russian spy ship.