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A Russian naval ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast on Thursday after colliding with a merchant vessel, the Turkish coast guard and the Russian military have confirmed.

All 78 Russian crew members were rescued, the Turkish coast guard said.

The ship, a Russian reconnaissance vessel called the Liman, sank shortly before 3 p.m., after hitting a private livestock vessel amid heavy fog about 17 miles from the coast north of the Bosporus, according to the Gulf Agency Company, a major shipping agency.

The livestock carrier, the Youzarsif H, which was flying the Togolese flag, survived intact and took part in the rescue, picking up 15 Russian sailors.

The Liman was not traceable on boat-tracking websites, but the Youzarsif H could be seen circling at low speed on Thursday afternoon in the area where the Russian vessel sank.

The Youzarsif H was on its way to Jordan, having set off from Romania on Wednesday night. After heading south through the Black Sea for several hours, it suddenly slowed and circled several times at around midday on Thursday, seemingly after it had collided with the Liman.

Records show the Liman was a Soviet-era ship and weighed 1,560 tons.
Over the past century, hundreds of vessels have collided in the Bosporus, one of the world’s busiest and narrowest international waterways.

Russian naval ships frequently pass through the strait on their way to a Russian base in Tartus, a Syrian city on the Mediterranean. The Bosporus connects the Mediterranean with the Black Sea, where most of the Russian fleet is based.

Russia’s ability to keep its Black Sea fleet moored on the shores of Crimea was cited as one of the main motivations behind President Vladimir V. Putin’s move to annex the peninsula in 2014. Shortly after, Mr. Putin announced a program to modernize the fleet, which received six new submarines, as well as several frigates and some smaller vessels; plans are underway for even more ships.

Russian vessels passed through the Bosporus even at the height of a diplomatic crisis between Russia and Turkey, after Turkey shot down a Russian jet that flew over its territory during a mission along the Turkish-Syrian border.

Turkey and Russia support different sides in the Syrian civil war, but increasingly coordinate on some issues in the conflict. They worked together to organize the peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, between the Turkish-backed rebels and the Russian-backed government, while Russian jets avoid targeting Turkish-backed militias fighting in northern Syria.

Source: nytimes.com