The former Bezzavetnyy, shown in typical Ukrainian colors
Two different views (with my very rough translation of Russian report):
Twenty years ago, an attempt to enter Soviet territorial waters ended with the US Navy learning a lesson. Here is a unique view of the two powers in the Black Sea.
They came to test us. The 12th of Feb. 1988 is a date that the crews of the cruiser Yorktown and the destroyer Caron will always remember. That’s the day that a ship of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet shoved them out of Soviet territorial waters. Literally.
Everything was normal. The international situation was okay. The former head of the International Department of the Communist Party Central Committee Valentin Fapin remembers:
There was provocation in the Black Sea which consisted of a violation of our air space by an American aircraft. The Americans did this several times because they were implementing a new Maritime Doctrine emphasizing strikes on Soviet bases, on Soviet ports, with non-nuclear weapons.
Two Soviet escorts, the Bezzavetnyy and SKR-6 met the ships of the US 6th Fleet at the exit of the Bosphorus in order to accompany them. The US ships answered that they didn’t need any assistance. It is not acceptable for Russians to ignore guests, the Soviet side countered.
On the 12th of Feb, at about 1100, the task group commander reported to headquarters that “ the Yorktown and Caron are within two miles of our territorial waters”. There was a short colloquy between the Soviet and American ships:
Soviets: Your course takes you to denied territorial waters.
Good Guys: We are not violating anything. We are continuing on course and speed.
Vice Admiral Valentin Selivanov gave the command: sound collision. It wasn’t a ram (I.E. a deliberate attack), but rather a high speed approach to the rear quarter of the other ship, gently nudging the other ship off course. The Bezzavetnyy approached the Yorktown, while SKR-86 approached the Caron. The assignment wasn’t simple.
Vice Admiral Selivanov:
The cruiser Yorktown displaced at least two times the escort ship Bezzavetnyy and the frigate (sic) Caron displaced four times the escort ship SKR-6. But we issued our orders and the captains did their jobs correctly, suffering minimal damage.
First the Bezzavetnyy hit the Yorktown’s port side, damaging the Harpoon launcher and destroying the captain’s gig. The Americans, who had been smiling, were now sounding the alarm and bringing hoses to the missile launcher.
Vladimir Bogdashin, Captain of the Bezzavetnyy:
There was a group of sailors on the stern, mostly black sailors, with fire hoses. When they saw those missile warheads, they got out of there. They came back about 15 minutes later, to see what was going on. It was completely unexpected. The ship was in shock.
The Caron saw what was going on and changed course. The order was given again. This time, it was more like a ramming attack. The strike occurred in the area around the helo deck. A high, sharp blow and the bow ended up on deck, rolling the Bezzavetnyy to port 15 or 20 degrees…At that moment, the ships entered a thick cloud. A fire started on the Yorktown near the anti-submarine missiles. The Caron wheeled around and the American ships attempted to put the Bezzavetnyy into a pincer. Meanwhile, the Bezzavetnyy readied it’s RBU-6000, armed with depth charges.
Everyone knows that if you give the Americans a shove, they’ll withdraw when things aren’t going their way and concentrate their forces at another point. (Note: Bastard smirks here).
The Yorktown readied two helicopters, but two Soviet Mi-26s (sic) carrying full combat loads circled the American ships. The helos were rolled back into their hangers and within the hour, the Americans departed territorial waters. Within a day the battered ships of the US 6th Fleet headed to depart the inhospitable, Soviet controlled Black Sea. (end of video)
There is another Russian language account of the incident here. Maybe I'll translate it on a day that I'm not feeling so lazy and the HBO series "Rome" starring the super hot Polly Walker isn't beckoning...