Russian ships and submarines pass the coast of Florida on their way to Cuba

Which Russian ships are involved? The frigate Admiral Gorshkov, the oil tanker Pashin, the rescue tug Nikolay Chiker and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan.


Three Russian Navy ships and a nuclear submarine appear to be passing the coast of Florida on Tuesday, June 11, en route to Cuba for a military exercise, open-source intelligence analysts reported on social media. Newsweek reported that the analysts are tracking several ships and air units from the U.S. and Canada likely shadowing the Russian flotilla.

On Wednesday, June 5, a U.S. official told media that Russia was planning naval exercises involving combat ships in the Caribbean. The United States did not perceive the flotilla's expected arrival in the Western Hemisphere as threatening, but the official told Reuters that the U.S. Navy would monitor the exercises. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details that have not previously been made public.

Cuba said in a press release last week that the ships did not carry nuclear weapons and posed no threat.

“This visit is in line with the historic friendly relations between Cuba and the Russian Federation and strictly complies with international regulations,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

But the visit comes as tensions between the United States and Russia are rising over U.S. support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian forces, U.S. officials told media. In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia could supply long-range weapons to countries within range of Western targets in response to Western military support for Ukraine in the war that has been going on for more than two years.

Last month, President Joe Biden authorized Ukraine to use U.S. weapons to attack targets in Russia – a major shift in U.S. policy. On Friday, Biden publicly apologized to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the delays in U.S. military aid and announced that the U.S. would send a $225 million package that the State Department said would include “interceptors, artillery systems and ammunition, armored vehicles, anti-tank weapons and other capabilities.”

How many Russian ships and submarines are off the coast of Florida?

According to the Foreign Ministry in Havana, the Russian ships visiting Cuba are the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov” and auxiliary vessels, including the oil tanker “Pashin”, the rescue tug “Nikolai Chiker” and the nuclear submarine “Kazan”.

How long will the Russian ships and submarines remain in the area?

According to the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, the Russian ships are scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, June 12, and stay for a week.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials expected the Russian ships to remain in the region throughout the summer.

What will the Russian ships and submarines do while they are in the Caribbean?

“As part of Russia's regular military exercises, we expect Russia to conduct increased naval and air activities near the United States this summer. These actions will culminate in a global Russian naval exercise in the fall,” the US official told reporters, according to Reuters.

“We expect Russia to temporarily send warships to the Caribbean. These ships will probably call at ports in Cuba and possibly Venezuela. There may also be deployments or flights of some aircraft in the region,” he said.

The Cuban foreign minister said the Russian sailors would “follow a program of activities that includes courtesy visits to the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary War Navy and the Governor of Havana, as well as visits to sites of historical and cultural interest.”

Do the Russian ships and submarines off the coast of Florida have nuclear weapons?

“This visit, which is part of the historic friendly relations between Cuba and the Russian Federation, strictly complies with the international conventions to which the State of Cuba is a party,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a press release. “Since none of these ships carry nuclear weapons, their stopover in our country does not pose a threat to the region.”

A U.S. official said U.S. intelligence did not believe the submarine, although it had nuclear propulsion, was carrying nuclear weapons.

What is the US doing about the Russian ships and submarines off the coast?

OSINT analysts have released updates showing several vessels in the area that could be shadowing the Russian vessels. Ship names include the destroyers USS Truxtun and USS Donald Cook, the Coast Guard Cutter Stone and the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec, as well as at least one US Navy P-8A Poseidon and a Canadian CP-140 Aurora.

Has Russia ever sent ships like this before?

Naval exercises are common around the world and the official said the Biden administration is not concerned because Russia has sent ships to the Western Hemisphere every year from 2013 to 2020.

However, the official also said that Russian naval activity had increased after the US showed its support for Ukraine.

“This is about Russia showing that it is still capable of global power projection to some degree,” the official said.

In 2019, the U.S. military and Coast Guard tracked a Russian spy ship called the Viktor Leonov that was operating off the coast of North Carolina to Florida. The Coast Guard issued a safety bulletin for the vessel. According to the agency, the vessel was operating in an “unsafe manner” by not responding to radio calls and operating without lights.

The Viktor Leonov, which CNN reports is equipped with state-of-the-art spy equipment to intercept signals, has been sighted several times over the years, most recently off the coast of Hawaii.

Steve Holland of Reuters contributed to this article.

Anna Harden

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