[Ed. – Well, “heavily armed” is a bit breathless and overblown here. The ships are missile-equipped patrol ships, of limited operational range, approximating corvette size. Serpukhov is of a newer class — Buyan — but Liven (a Nanuchka) and Morshansk (a Tarantul) are considerably older. Still, it’s significant that Russia did this. The 4 nautical mile standoff is quite interesting, as that used to be the standoff observed by convention in the days prior to the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention. Before UNCLOS, the recognized limit of territorial waters was 3 nautical miles. UNCLOS bumped it up to 12 nautical miles. The U.S., of course, is not formally a party to UNCLOS — although we have observed the territorial waters conventions in it for the last 35 years. Russia, by contrast, IS a state party to UNCLOS. The choice of a penetration distance to 4 nautical miles looks deliberate, and freighted.]
Three heavily armed Russian warships have again tested Nato by sailing close to the tiny Baltic state of Latvia.
Military officials in the Latvian capital Riga said the corvettes – Liven 551, Serpukhov 603 and Morshansk 824 – were detected just four nautical miles from the state’s territorial waters.
It was the latest in a series of moves by Vladimir Putin ‘s naval forces seen as testing the response of the small Baltic state, a Nato and EU member.
The move on Sunday was linked today to the arrival in the Baltic Sea of US warship, USS Carney, with cruise missiles on board.
The three Russian vessels had been deployed to St Petersburg ahead of the country’s annual war commemoration on 9 May, known as Victory Day.