By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Military
The Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov reportedly has returned to international waters off the U.S. southeastern coast after operating in what two unnamed U.S. officials told CNN was an “unsafe manner.”
The Viktor Leonov sailed off the coast of South Carolina and Florida in the last few days “using running lights in low visibility conditions” and “not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements, ” the Washington Times said.
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CNN cited one of the defense officials as saying that the Navy’s USS Mahan was operating nearby.
Safety Information Bulletin Alerted Mariners to the Ship’s Presence and Behavior
A Coast Guard official said the Coast Guard was broadcasting a “Marine Safety Information Bulletin” to alert mariners in the area to the Russian ship’s presence and its behavior.
The Moscow Times said, “The Viktor Leonov SSV-175, part of the Vishnya class of intelligence ships, has reportedly patrolled international waters off the eastern coast of the U.S. every year since 2014.”
The spy ship was spotted in Cuba in 2014, near a U.S. submarine base in Connecticut in 2017 and a U.S. ballistic missile submarine base in Georgia last year, the Moscow Times reported. It noted too that the ship “was the last of eight intelligence ships built for the Soviet Navy in Poland in 1988 and is currently in service with the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet.”
Vessel Named after Twice Decorated Hero of the Soviet Union
The vessel was named for one of the Soviet Union’s most storied heroes. Senior Naval officer Victor Leonov was twice decorated as Hero of the Soviet Union, also received the Order of Lenin and two Orders of the Red Banner, all for outstanding bravery.
Toward the end of World War II, Leonov, along with a senior officer and a force of 140 men, landed at a Japanese airfield they believed was lightly guarded. Instead, the facility was manned by some 3,500 Japanese soldiers.
According to the website We Are the Mighty when Leonov’s superior began surrender negotiations with his Japanese counterpart, Leonov “pulled out a grenade and threatened to kill everyone, including his fellow Russian. The Japanese surrendered on the spot. The Russians captured 2,200 troops, three artillery batteries, five aircraft, and a lot of ammunition.”
Leonov died in Moscow in 2003.