A Russian missile cruiser and a coast guard powerboat had to intervene after a merchant vessel flying the Turkish flag hampered a Russian convoy transporting two drill platforms to a new location in Russian territorial waters.
The decision to relocate them closer to Crimea was caused by the complicated international situation, according to a press release from the Russian Chernomorneftegaz state company that owns the platforms
While the two rigs were being moved to their new location, a vessel under the Turkish flag crossed the convoy’s path Monday.
“Acting in violation of regulations for preventing collisions and against the generally accepted conventions of navigation, the Turkish vessel failed to get out of the way of the convoy. It approached crossways and attempted to stop its course, thus creating potential for a collision,” Chernomorneftegaz said in a statement, stressing that the captain of the Turkish vessel operated radio silence despite requests to respond.
The incident was “resolved” when a powerboat from the Russian coast guard and a missile cruiser came to the aid of the Russian convoy and chased the Turkish vessel off.
The company says the B-312 and B-319 rigs are worth 25 billion rubles (about US$357mn).
It is the second recent sea incident involving the Russian Navy and Turkish vessels.
Following the incident, the Russian Defense Ministry warned the Turkish military attaché about “the possible harmful consequences of the reckless actions by Ankara against the Russian military contingent, involved in tackling international terrorism in Syria.”
The succession of the incidents involving Russian and Turkish ships is “an overture to the Turkish intention to raise the issue of renegotiating the Montreux Convention [regulating passage of the foreign ships through the Turkish straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles],” Professor Srdja Trifkovich, foreign affairs editor of the Chronicles Magazine, told RT.
Trifkovich explained, that the Montreux Convention (signed in 1936) is subject to renewal every 20 years, so in 2016 the convention will be re-signed.
“Obviously, this would be a handy time for the Turks to start raising tension and to start claiming that the number of incidents – for which they, of course, would blame the Russian side – indicates the need to impose some as yet unknown restrictions on the passage of the Russian warships through the straits,” Trifkovich said, stressing that in the past similar incidents were quite rare.
Trifkovich noted that an escalation in Russia-Turkey relations over the straits would be a major one, giving the fact that gaining access to the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits has been an imperative of Russian foreign policy since the 18th century.
The strait issue is particularly sensible now as Russia is conducting a counter-terrorist operation in Syria. The shortest sea route to Syria passes through the Bosporus and Dardanelles.
Turkey says its patience ‘has a limit’
Turkey’s foreign minister said Ankara’s patience with Russia “has a limit” after Moscow’s “exaggerated” reaction to a weekend naval incident between the two countries, an Italian newspaper reported on Monday.
Reacting to Sunday’s incident on the Aegean Sea, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Italian daily Corriere della Sera that Ankara’s patience with Russia “has a limit.”
“Ours was only a fishing boat, it seems to me that the reaction of the Russian naval ship was exaggerated,” Cavusoglu told the paper in an interview.
“Russia and Turkey certainly have to re-establish the relations of trust that we have always had, but our patience has a limit,” he said.
The incident is likely to heighten tensions between the two nations who are at odds over Syria and Turkey’s downing of a Russian war plane last month.