MOSCOW — Russian warships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday drove away a Dutch submarine shadowing the squadron, the military said.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said two Russian navy destroyers spotted the Walrus-class submarine Wednesday while it was 20 kilometers (some 11 nautical miles) away from the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and its escorting ships.
The destroyers had tracked the submarine for more than an hour, using anti-submarine helicopters, before forcing it to leave the area, Konashenkov said. He didn't elaborate how the warships prompted the submarine to leave.
The spokesman added that such "clumsy" attempts to maneuver close to the Russian squadron could have resulted in an accident.
Konashenkov said the Russian squadron had previously spotted several NATO submarines, including a U.S. Virginia-class nuclear submarine, while en route to eastern Mediterranean waters.
A NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to discuss the sensitive issue on the record, said the alliance's navies have been monitoring the Russian fleet in recent weeks in a "measured and responsible way, as is customary." He refused to elaborate on how NATO was doing that.
In a tweet, the Dutch Defense Ministry said it does not comment on operations conducted by its submarines.
The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier is being accompanied by the nuclear-powered Peter the Great missile cruiser and several other ships on a mission to Syria's shores, the Russian navy's largest deployment since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
NATO has expressed concern, saying the move could presage an increase in the number of Russian air raids in Syria, particularly around the besieged city of Aleppo.
Lorne Cook in Brussels and Mike Corder in Amsterdam contributed to this report.