A Russian spy ship has been spotted off America's East Coast, but the Pentagon wants you to know there's nothing to worry about.
"This is not something where we have seen where they have entered territorial waters, and as such it is lawful and very similar to operations we do," Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said Friday.
The Viktor Leonov is one of several Russian surveillance ships dedicated to intelligence collection and is equipped with electronic surveillance gear and small arms for defenses, but is not carrying any heavy weapons capable of threatening the U.S. homeland, according to Davis.
This is not the first time the Viktor Leonov has conducted operations off the East Coast, Davis explained. The Russian spy vessel has been spotted collecting on a U.S. submarine base in New London, Connecticut, and other Navy bases in Florida and Virginia going, back to 1998, Davis said.
Before approaching the U.S. East Coast, the Viktor Leonov made a port call in Kingston, Jamaica, and the ship has been known to dock in Havana, Cuba, where it often participates in counter-narcotic operations with Central America.
The Russian spy ship is currently being tracked by a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. The Pentagon would not provide details of how the ship was being monitored or what particular vessels are involved in the operation.
"They routinely deploy intelligence vessels worldwide to monitor the activities and particularly naval activities of other nations, but then again conducted lawfully in international waters and not unlike operations we conduct ourselves," Davis said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.