Escalation or Accident? Turkish Vessel Nearly Collides with Russian Warship

MOSCOW (Reuters) -
Russia's diesel-electric submarine Rostov-on-Don is escorted by a Turkish Navy Coast Guard boat as it sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Russia’s diesel-electric submarine Rostov-on-Don is escorted by a Turkish Navy Coast Guard boat as it sets sail in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

The Russian Defense Ministry reported on Sunday that one of its warships, the destroyer Smetlivy, had been forced to fire warning shots at a Turkish vessel in the Aegean Sea to avoid a collision and that it had summoned the Turkish military attaché over the incident.

The Interfax news agency said that the Turkish vessel, which the ministry did not name, had failed to respond to earlier warnings, but did sharply change course after the shots were fired. The Turkish vessel passed within 500 meters of the Russian warship.

The incident, which occurred on Sunday morning, is likely to heighten tensions between the two nations who are seriously at odds over Syria and the Turkish shooting down of a Russian military jet last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called the downing of the plane a “stab in the back,” has since imposed economic sanctions on Turkey as a retaliatory measure.

Earlier this month, Turkey complained to Russia over an incident in which a Russian sailor was pictured brandishing a rocket launcher on the deck of a naval ship passing through Istanbul.