US Navy tracking Russian spy ship off Virginia coast

NORFOLK (Dec. 15, 2016) Sailors assigned to Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) prepare to depart Naval Station Norfolk. Cole departed Naval Station Norfolk for a scheduled deployment to the 5th and 6th fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Released)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Defense Department official says U.S. Navy is tracking a Russian spy ship off the coast of Virginia.

The official said the Russian ship Viktor Leonov was spotted 30 miles off Virginia’s coast — and still in international waters.

International waters is defined as being great than 12 miles off the coast, according to the official.

The Viktor Leonov is part of Russia’s Northern Fleet and has made previous deployments in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

According to the official, the ship’s arrival was anticipated based on previous deployments to the area this time of year. The official said the Norfolk-based destroyer USS Cole is monitoring the Viktor Leonov’s activities.

CNN reported earlier this week that the Viktor Leonov was seen 100 miles away from the North Carolina coast.

Navy spokesperson Brian Wierzbicki said in a statement, “We are tracking the Viktor Leonov ‘s presence off the east coast, much like we are aware of all vessels approaching the United States and Canada.  We respect the rights and freedoms of all nations to operate in international waters in accordance with international law.”

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