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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Ship a Novelty to U.S. Sailors

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT -- When sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt first spotted a Russian warship just kilometers from the bow of the aircraft carrier, they were so excited they ran out on deck to take pictures.

In Cold War days, it was routine for the Russians to shadow U.S. vessels. But times have changed, and the Liman's tailing of NATO warships in the Adriatic has given the less experienced sailors their first sight of a Russian ship at sea.

"I wanted to see what it looked like, so when it came close one day I went up and got a picture to keep as a souvenir,'' said Lieutenant Junior Grade Jack Walser.

Another lieutenant, Thomas Musselman, said he tried to contact the Liman during his watch Friday night from the bridge of the Roosevelt but no one answered.

Even the Roosevelt's commanding officer, Captain David Bryant, admitted Saturday he hadn't seen one so close in quite a while.

Sailors liken the Liman - which could be seen with the naked eye Saturday morning about 11 kilometers from the Roosevelt's bow - to a big fishing boat. It is about 60 meters long compared to the carrier, which is more than 300 meters, has a crew of about 5,000 and hosts more than 70 jets.

The intelligence-gathering vessel was in the Black Sea when Russia decided to send a warship into the Mediterranean to monitor NATO operations against Yugoslavia.

Moscow has said it would not intervene militarily in the conflict. Bryant said he didn't expect any incidents.

"We are in international waters and as long as they maneuver safely and follow the international rules of the road then there is not the slightest problem whatsoever,'' he said.

The captain insisted he did not know what intelligence-gathering capabilities the Liman had.

"For all I know, they could just be looking at us with binoculars,'' said Bryant.

He said his main concern was to avoid colliding with the Liman or the other military or merchant vessels sailing in the crowded Adriatic.

The Roosevelt was originally scheduled to head to the Persian Gulf but was diverted to the Adriatic once the NATO bombing campaign began nearly three weeks ago. It arrived in position Tuesday and jets immediately began flying missions.

The Russian ship began shadowing the Roosevelt about a week ago, and since the, "there is a little more talk and a little more anxiety'' on board, Musselman said.