Feb 16, 2017 12:11 PMBy Michael Wright Word that a Russian "spy ship" is patrolling in the Atlantic somewhere over the horizon south of Long Island was highlighted by U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin on Tuesday as part of what he called "increased aggression" by Russia and a "direct threat" to the United States and its interests.
The ship, which Mr. Zeldin's office said has been confirmed by the Pentagon to be the Russian Navy's 298-foot intelligence gathering ship the SSV-Victor Leonov, is apparently maneuvering somewhere south of Long Island. Media reports early Tuesday cited government officials who claimed it was within 30 miles of the U.S. Navy's primary Atlantic submarine base in Groton, Connecticut, which would put it within sight of Montauk.
A spokesperson for Mr. Zeldin said that the congressman's office did not have specific information about the location of the ship from the Pentagon or U.S. Coast Guard except that it did not cross into U.S. territorial waters, which extend 12 miles out from the coastline.
Numerous media outlets cited Pentagon officials as saying they have been "monitoring" the Leonov's movements up the East Coast of the U.S. since it left Cuba earlier this week but were respecting its rights to freedom of movement in international waters.
Mr. Zeldin nonetheless bristled at the suspicious moves by a ship that carries a battery of eavesdropping and data-gathering equipment, as well as surface-to-air missiles.
"Russia's increased aggression is a direct threat. 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," Mr. Zeldin said in a statement on Tuesday. "Russia is our adversary, meddling in ways globally that are putting American service members and the security of the free world at risk.”
The ship that elicited Representative Zeldin's strong words toward the Russian leader's possible historical aspirations itself harks to the former Soviet Union as well. The SSV-Victor Leonov was commissioned into the Red Navy in 1988, one of seven Vishnya-class intelligence ships. It is now part of Russia's Northern Fleet and has made visits to the Caribbean and western Atlantic regularly, typically stopping for re-supply in Cuba.
The ship is named after one of Russia's most storied war heroes who was twice awarded the Gold Star, Russia's highest military honor, for his actions in combat during World War II on both the European front and in the Pacific.