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Gazette Premium Content US warship deployed near Sochi runs aground

Associated Press - Updated: February 19, 2014 at 9:09 am

WASHINGTON — One of two U.S. warships dispatched to the Black Sea before the Sochi Winter Olympics remains in a Turkish port after running aground last week, the Navy said Wednesday.

The frigate USS Taylor is being inspected for damage after it ran aground Feb. 12 while preparing to moor at Samsun, Turkey, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) southwest of Sochi. A Turkish official said it may be repaired in a day or two.

Lt. Shawn Eklund, a Navy spokesman in Europe, said that even with the Taylor sidelined, the U.S. would still be able to respond, should Russia ask for help with any crisis. The Taylor and the USS Mount Whitney were sent to the Black Sea after an uptick in security threats around the Olympics, although the Pentagon said the U.S. warships were deployed as part of normal military planning and could perform any required missions, including communications or evacuations.

"The Navy is still prepared to render support to the Russian Federation in the event of a crisis or contingency operation," Eklund said in a phone interview Wednesday.

He said he could not go into detail on what other things the Navy has done to prepare, but officials have said repeatedly that they have assets that could be called into action for a variety of potential missions.

"The Navy has ships available for multiple taskings, assets that could be called upon, should they be the appropriate asset, and should the State Department request them," Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said Wednesday. "There's been no request at this time."

The USS Mount Whitney, an amphibious command ship, and the USS Taylor, a guided-missile frigate, arrived in the Black Sea early this month. The Pentagon announced their planned deployment to the region in January, after terrorist groups threatened to disrupt the Olympic Games in the resort town on Russia's Black Sea coast. The Whitney is the flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet in Europe; both ships have helicopter pads.

The Navy says no one was injured when the Taylor ran aground.

A senior Turkish port official said the ship's propeller scraped the surface as it was mooring at Samsun. The propeller was still being repaired and the Turkish military has extended permission for the ship to dock at Samsun until the end of the week, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the record to the media.

The propeller was expected to be fixed soon and the ship was likely to leave Samsun in a day or two, he said.

The official said security around the port had been tightened and that the Coast Guard had increased patrols.

____

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara.

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