SYDNEY: Four Russian navy ships that appeared off Australia’s northern coast amid heightened tensions ahead of the G20 summit have now left, military officials said Thursday (Nov 20).
The ships, including a guided missile cruiser, a destroyer, a tug boat and a refuelling vessel were detected last week in international waters ahead of the arrival in Brisbane of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the meeting of world leaders.
Their appearance came after Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to “shirtfront” Putin over the shooting down of flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine in July. The West claims the plane was blown out of the sky with a missile supplied by Russia, an allegation Moscow denies. In the end, both men shook hands and smiled for the cameras.
Australia sent three ships and an Orion aircraft to monitor the Russian fleet, whose presence was seen by analysts as a show of force by Putin.
“The Russian ships did not enter Australian territorial waters and have now departed the Coral Sea,” Australian Defence Force chief Mark Binskin said in a statement. “We made periodic radio contact with the Russian flotilla and this communication was conducted professionally and courteously by all parties and was consistent with normal maritime communication procedures.”
Australia said the Russian navy has previously been deployed in conjunction with major international summits. A warship from Russia’s Pacific Fleet accompanied former president Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to San Francisco in 2010.