The Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate HMCS Toronto (FFH 333) has been circled by two Russian Air Force aircraft during its participation in the Sea Breeze 2014 (SB14) training exercise off the Black Sea, escalating tensions in the region.
A defence department source was reported by the Toronto Star as saying that the two Russian aircraft, a supersonic attack Su-24 Fencer and a turboprop military transport An-26 Curl, circled the HMCS Toronto frigate from about 300m above the water and 500m away from the vessel.
Canadian National Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said: "While the Russian military aircraft that circled the HMCS Toronto did not in any way pose a threat to the Canadian ship, their actions were unnecessarily provocative and risk escalating tensions even further.
"Canada and its allies are taking part in reassurance measures as a direct result of the Putin regime’s military aggression and invasion of Ukraine. Canada will continue to work with our NATO Allies to build military interoperability and partnerships in this part of the world.
"The message that Canada is sending, along with the rest of our Nato allies, is that Russia’s reckless actions must stop."
However, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman general major Igor Konashenkov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying that: "The Russian Air Force planes’ flight path ran through a region where a ship from the Canadian Navy, the Toronto, was located but did not approach the foreign warship."
The vessel is taking part in the multinational maritime exercise being held in the north-western part of the Black Sea, which is focusing on establishing and securing a maritime safety zone in the crisis region.
Navies from five nations are taking part in the event, including the US, Ukraine, Georgia, Romania and Turkey together with Standing Nato Maritime Group TWO Task Unit 02 (SNMG2 TU.02).
Image: Naval ships during Sea Breeze 2014 training exercise off the Black Sea. Photo: courtesy of Nato.