Russian spy ship spotted off the coast of Delaware
The vessel was located in international waters 70 miles off the coast of Delaware, heading north at 10 knots, according to one official. The US territory line is 12 nautical miles off the coast.
The ship, the SSV-175 Viktor Leonov, last sailed near the US in April 2015.
It is capable of intercepting communications or signals, known as SIGINT, as well as measuring US Navy sonar capability. It is also armed with surface-to-air missiles.
In the past, Russian spy ships have loitered off the coast of Kings Bay, Georgia, which is home to a US Navy ballistic missile submarine base.
The Viktor Leonov pictured in Cuban capital Havana three years ago
It is the first such move by Russian military under Donald Trump's presidency and came as White House national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign amid controversy over his Russia contacts.
US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not out of the ordinary.
An official said: “It’s not a huge concern but we are keeping our eyes on it.
“It's not unprecedented. It's not unusual. It's not alarming."
The Viktor Leonov docked in Havana
The Russian ship went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet.
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It was named after Viktor Leonov – a Soviet sailor in the Second World War who was awarded two Hero of the Soviet Union medals.
The vessel caused a stir when it docked in Havana in February and March 2014, staying there for a few days.
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At the time, neither Cuba nor Russia acknowledged or explained the presence of the spy ship.
The vessel has also been detected in the vicinity of the US Naval Station in Mayport, Florida.
During the Cold War, Russian intelligence gathering ships routinely parked off US submarine bases along the East Coast.
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