USS Gravely Russia warships
The USS Gravely reportedly had a near-collision with a Russian warship in the Mediterranean on 28 June, 2016. Both nations are pinning the blame on each other. REUTERS/ Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/U.S. Navy/Handout

A heavily-armed Russian warship and an equally formidable US destroyer engaged in an hour-long game of cat and mouse on 17 June (2016) which could have resulted in potentially deadly consequences, with both countries blaming each other for the incident. The two ships - the USS Gravely and the Russian Neustrashimyy-class frigate, Yaroslav Mudry - are said to have come close to colliding in the incident, which took place in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

According to the Russian navy, the USS Gravely - which is in the area to protect the Harry S Truman aircraft carrier as part of Operation Inherent Resolve - breached international navigation safety rules by passing across the Russian ship's course at a range of just 60-70 meters (65-75 yards).

In a statement republished by Russia Today on Tuesday 28 June, the Russian Defence Ministry warned: "US sailors allow themselves to neglect key foundations of navigation safety without thinking of the consequences that dangerous manoeuvring in a heavily trafficked maritime area might involve."

However the Pentagon disputed the Russian version of events. "As Gravely changed course and speed, the Neustrashimyy also changed course and speed. The manoeuvring demonstrates that the Neustrashimyy was not in fact restricted in her ability to manoeuvre, and was thus intentionally displaying a false international signal," a US official said as quoted by CNN. The Russian frigate had come within five miles of the aircraft carrier itself, the official added.

The incident is the latest in a series of near-misses between US and Russian forces, mostly involving fighter jets. In separate incidents in April Russian jets "barrel-rolled" over US Air Force planes, and buzzed the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic. Observers fear that if one near-miss causes an accident the consequences both diplomatically and militarily could be far-reaching. Speaking after the Donald Cook incident, US secretary of state John Kerry said: "Under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down".