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Russian spy ship spotted near Virginia

Strategy Room: Ambassador William Courtney and Reva Goujon on Washington's concerns over Moscow's action

 

A Russian spy ship last seen off the coast of Connecticut was spotted late Wednesday steaming south -- and near the largest naval base in the world, where the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet is located.

The Viktor Leonov was spotted approximately 65 nautical miles northeast of Norfolk, Va., in international waters heading south, a U.S. official told Fox News. The U.S. territorial line extends 12 miles from the coast.

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The Russian spy ship likely was returning to the Caribbean and Havana Harbor, according to the official. The Viktor Leonov was last seen in Havana in January 2015, as the Obama administration helped thaw relations with Cuba.

Earlier this week, the Russian intelligence-gathering ship ventured as close as 30 nautical miles off the coast of Groton, Conn., home to a U.S. Navy submarine base. In addition to intercepting communications, the spy ship can also collect and analyze U.S. Navy sonar capability, according to officials.

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This comes as the U.S. military’s top officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, is set to meet his Russian counterpart Thursday in Azerbaijan, the first time the military heads of both nations have met since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Dunford is set to meet with Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Valeriy Gerasimov in Baku, according to the Pentagon.

“The military leaders will discuss a variety of issues including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises,” a Pentagon statement said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also met his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for the first time Thursday in Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday it was in the interests of both Russia and the United States to restore ties between the two nations' intelligence agencies, Reuters reported.

Adding to the list of meetings with Kremlin officials, Fox News exclusively reported yesterday that a sanctioned Iranian general, responsible for killing hundreds of American troops in Iraq, would meet with top Russian officials.

Qassem Soleimani is visiting Moscow in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions barring him from traveling outside Iran. Russia, as a member of the UN Security Council, would also be in violation of the sanctions preventing Soleimani from traveling.

Soleimani heads Iran’s Quds Force, the external wing of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is tasked with coordinating Iran’s proxy forces throughout the Middle East.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews