Russian ships track HMCS Fredericton carrying Stephen Harper
Harper made a 20-hour visit with sailors on Canadian warship in the Baltic Sea
Two Russian frigates shadowed HMCS Fredericton and tracked its course while Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on board today.
The vessels were spotted mid-morning, after Harper and his wife, Laureen, spent the night on board the Canadian frigate in the Baltic Sea.
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It was Defence Minister Jason Kenney who stood on the stern of the ship with the media and pointed to the two Russian vessels in the distance, barely visible to the naked eye. Kenney has joined the prime minister during his European trip.
He added though it's not unusual for the Russians to monitor the NATO exercises from a distance and they posed no danger to the Canadian ship.
"Their posture is monitoring, not a threatening posture and the commander tells me the Russian ships have been acting very professionally in terms of keeping a respectful distance and not acting in a threatening way," Kenney said.
However, as HMCS Fredericton changed course, the two Russian ships did as well.
"They were tracking us east, and this vessel corrected to go south, and they've now corrected to follow," Kenney said.
In the end, the Russian frigates were seven nautical miles from the Canadian vessel.
Commander Jeff Murray wasn't concerned, even though a Russian helicopter flew along the port side of the ship on Monday.
"I fully expect they're keeping situational awareness as all militaries do when they're operating. So I would say they do what we do and they make sure that they know what vessels are operating in waters near their areas of interest," the commander told the media.
NATO military exercise
The ship was in the midst of a yearly NATO training exercise, in which Russia was a participant until two years ago, when they backed rebels in Ukraine and annexed Crimea.
The prime minister was on the Canadian ship for 20 hours, boarding in Gdynia, a Polish port city, on Tuesday evening.
After docking Wednesday, Harper gave a speech to crew members and reporters, talking about his concerns about Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
"Mr. Putin's recklessness threatens global stability, regional stability, and has spread fear among our Eastern allies," he said.
"That, my friends, is why you, the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy, are here."
Harper spent much of his visit with the ship's crew, meeting many people on board.
Some got a little one-on-one time with him, including Petty Officer First Class Karen Johnston, who received a special service medal to mark 32 years of service.
"How often do you get an opportunity, a forum, with the prime minister and receive a medal and have that opportunity in your lifetime? Never, right?" Johnston said.
PMSH in Gdynia, Poland, tells sailors Russian aggression must be confronted. <a href="http://t.co/sUnbDA4OVb">pic.twitter.com/sUnbDA4OVb</a>—@CBCTerry
With files from The Canadian Press and Haydn Watters