Three Russian warships armed with long-range cruise missiles have been spotted in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Latvia, in what appeared to be a challenge to President Donald Trump, Europe and NATO. The Latvian Army posted to its Twitter account that the Russian ships Liven 551, Serpukhov 603 and the Morshansk 824 were seen in the sea on Sunday. Newsweek reported that the ships were as close as four nautical miles from country’s coast.
The warships were initially deployed to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a Victory Day celebration marking the end of World War II. But the ships left those waters early — Victory Day is May 9 — and headed toward the Baltic Sea, according to the the U.K. Express, which translated Russian news agency Fontanka.
The purpose for the warships in the region was not immediately clear. However, the paper reported that the presence of the vessels was most likely in response to the arrival of the USS Carney in the Baltic Sea, which is also armed with cruise missiles.
The U.S. Navy posted to its Twitter account on Monday that the Carney had crossed seas near Denmark last week, adding that the vessel was “conducting a patrol in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.”
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Russian warships suddenly moving into the area — especially after being redirected from a holiday celebration — certainly looks like a response to the U.S. military being there.
Newsweek reported that Mikhail Nenashev, a representative for a Russian naval supporters group, confirmed to Russian news agency RIA Novosti that some deployments were diverted and would not take part in the celebration. He did not elaborate any further.
A Russian source who did not wish to be identified also told Newsweek that fewer ships would participate in the celebration but would not confirm if any changes were related to the presence of the USS Carney.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, no stranger to military provocations, is apparently testing Latvia, which is a member of NATO and the European Union.
Putin would be wise to keep his fleet where it belongs: in port.