A couple of hours ago, in what appeared to be the latest development in the cat-and-mouse naval activities being played out by Russia and NATO in the Black Sea, online ship tracking services showed the U.S. Navy's Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71), sailing together with a Ukrainian patrol boat just five miles off the coast of the contested Crimean Peninsula in the middle of the night. The Navy has denied that ship was ever anywhere near Crimea. What looked at first sight like a deliberate passage through what NATO recognizes as Ukrainian territorial waters, but which are also claimed by Russia, now seems to have been a case of deliberate spoofing of maritime tracking data, something that also occurred two weeks ago in the same area.
Earlier this evening, MarineTraffic and VesselFinder, aggregators that provide real-time information on ship movements, showed USS Ross sailing very close to the Crimean coast, causing a big stir in the online open source intelligence community. If true, this would have put the ship closer to the Russian-occupied peninsula than the U.K. Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender had been on June 23. In that instance, the British ship had sailed within around 10 miles of Crimea, prompting a response from Russia's security forces. The Kremlin claimed that its military aircraft dropped bombs in front of the warship and that its patrol boats fired warning shots to ward it off. Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and now considers the waters around it to be part of its national territory. The United States and the United Kingdom, among many other members of the intentional community, do not recognize Moscow's authority over Crimea.