Russia Claims it Expelled U.S. Navy Attack Sub From Kuril Islands

Image courtesy Russian MInistry of Defense

Published Feb 13, 2022 7:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Saturday, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported a run-in with a U.S. Navy submarine in the remote Kuril Islands, on the edge of the Sea of Okhotsk. According to the ministry, the Virginia-class sub was detected in Russian territorial seas and was expelled from the area using unspecified means. The U.S. Navy has denied that the sub was present in the area or had been expelled. 

The ministry claimed that the attack sub was discovered in the vicinity of Urup Island, about 800 nm to the northeast of Tokyo. In its account, the sub was ordered to surface but did not do so, and so the frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov "used appropriate means" to compel it to depart. 

After the frigate's intervention, "the American submarine used a self-propelled simulator to double the target on radar and acoustic control means and left the territorial waters of the Russian Federation at maximum speed," the ministry claimed.

In connection with this "violation by the US Navy submarine of the state border of the Russian Federation," the Russian Ministry of Defense summoned the U.S. defense attache in Moscow to express its concerns in strong terms. The ministry described the sub's alleged presence as a "gross violation of international law," and a "provocative action" creating a "threat to the national security of the Russian Federation."

The Pentagon has denied that a U.S. submarine was present in the area. "There is no truth to the Russian claims of our operations in their territorial waters," said spokesman Captain Kyle Raines in a statement.

The alleged encounter comes as the U.S. and its European allies gird for an expected Russian invasion of Ukraine. Military tensions between NATO and Russia are at the highest point seen since the days of the Cold War: Russia has massed more than 130,000 troops and an array of modern weaponry along the Ukrainian border, and though the Kremlin insists that it has no plans to invade, the White House has advised all U.S. citizens in Ukraine to exit the country as soon as possible. 3,000 U.S. troops have been dispatched to neighboring Poland to assist with an evacuation as needed. 

Russia has also launched large-scale naval drills in the Black Sea, with more than 30 warships - primarily small surface combatants and landing ships - deployed to staging areas. According to the ministry, this fleet will engage in artillery exercises and simulated missile attacks.

On Sunday, given the heightened tensions and the military activity in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, the U.S. Maritime Administration advised U.S.-flagged shipping to "exercise caution, conduct a risk assessment, review security measures, and incorporate appropriate protective measures into vessel security plans" when transiting the region.