Russia's military acted in an "unnecessarily provocative" manner when its aircraft circled a Canadian ship in the Black Sea on Sunday, says Canada's minister of national defence.

"The acts perpetrated by Russia were unnecessarily provocative and are likely to increase tensions further," said Rob Nicholson in a written statement, saying it did not matter if the aircraft circling HMCS Toronto had posed no threat.

The ship was circled by one surveillance plane and two fighter jets, according to the defence minister's office.

The frigate HMCS Toronto left Halifax in late July to replace HMCS Regina, which has been a part of the Standing NATO Maritime Forces since May.

"Canada and its allies are involved in security measures taken by the acts of military aggression perpetrated by the Putin regime and because of the invasion of Ukraine," he said, calling on Russia to stop its "irresponsible actions."

This ship has about 250 crew on board and is participating in Operation Reassurance from Sept. 6 to 27 along with several vessels from other nations.

Russian denial

NDP and Liberal foreign affairs critics said Russia's actions were not surprising.

HMCS Toronto

HMCS Toronto passes through the Turkish Straits as it makes its way to the Black Sea on Sept. 6. (HMCS Toronto/Facebook)

"Clearly, this is something that is disturbing, but it's also in many ways not surprising," Paul Dewar, the NDP foreign affairs critic told CBC's Evan Solomon on Power and Politics. "This has been a kind of cat and mouse game with the Russians."

The Russians view themselves as having domain in this part of the world, he said, but Canada has a presence there to support its allies.

It's important to avoid increasing tensions over the encounter, said Dewar, but "clearly there needs to be some strong diplomacy here after this incident."

Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau called the move "totally unsurprising" and reminiscent of Soviet-era behaviour.

Early Tuesday, a report emerged from Russian state ITAR-Tass news agency news agency quoting General-Major Igor Konashenkov as saying two Russian aircraft had passed through the area on a routine flight but "without making an approach on the foreign military vessel."

With files from Reuters