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The USS Ross approaches  Romanian navy ships in preparation for a passing exercise in the Black Sea, May 26, 2015. The Navy released two videos that it says show Russian jets flying by American and Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea in recent days.

The USS Ross approaches Romanian navy ships in preparation for a passing exercise in the Black Sea, May 26, 2015. The Navy released two videos that it says show Russian jets flying by American and Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea in recent days. (Robert S. Price/U.S. Navy)

NAPLES, Italy — The Navy released two videos that it says show Russian jets flying by American and Ukrainian warships in the Black Sea in recent days, its latest response to Russian reports the aircraft had forced a U.S. warship to change its course Saturday.

Those reports, first published by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, claimed several Russian Su-24 attack aircraft were scrambled to confront the destroyer USS Ross, whose crew had acted “provocatively and aggressively,” according to an unnamed source.

The Navy had already disputed the reports on Sunday, saying the ship was operating in international waters, had no intention of entering Russian waters and did not change operations. It said the Russian jets appeared to be conducting routine flight operations.

Navy Capt. Brenda Malone, spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, said the videos were an effort to show what really happened.

“It was truly a non-event,” she said of the Saturday flight. “We were surprised to see the reporting and thought it was important to respond to it and correct the record.”

The two videos, posted Monday to the command’s YouTube channel, claim to show the overflight from Saturday, as well as a similar pass on Monday, when the Ross was exercising with the Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy.

In both instances, the jets pass to the side of the ships before veering off. A caption below each video notes the aircraft carried no ordnance.

Encounters with Su-24 jets have become more common for U.S. warships operating in the Black Sea over the past year, Malone said. She said Navy considers the flight operations routine, not provocative or aggressive.

“It’s not unusual for a cruise, for ships in the Black Sea, to see Russian aircraft operating in international airspace,” she said.

Russia is sensitive about American and NATO deployments to the Black Sea, a traditional seat of Moscow’s naval power. The U.S. has sharply increased its deployments to the region, averaging almost one Black Sea visit a month compared to a handful annually before 2014.

The U.S. has accused Russian pilots of acting recklessly in the past. The destroyer USS Donald Cook was buzzed by Su-24 jets during a similar visit to the Black Sea in April 2014, according to the Navy. As in the Ross incident, the aircraft were said to be flying without ordnance.

The Navy says its ships remain in international waters, unless scheduled for a port call, and follow rules set out by the Montreux Convention, an international agreement that governs foreign warship visits in the Black Sea.

The Ross entered the Black Sea on May 23 and conducted exercises with the Romanian navy before beginning a two-day exercise with the Ukrainian frigate on Monday.

beardsley.steven@stripes.com Twitter: @sjbeardsley

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