TRT misleads public with news on Russian warship's attempt to approach Bosphorus shore

Turkey's state-owned TRT channel on Jan. 6 reported that the Russian cruiser 'Marshal Ustinov' “lost its control” and was “almost to collide” with the shore in Istanbul's Bosphorus strait. International maritime expert Yörük Işık said the channel's report was incorrect as the vessel's attempt to approach the coast was fully under control, but the captain later gave up on the idea due to bad weather and strong currents. "Probably the captain did not want to take a risk before Putin's arrival," Işık said.

Turkey's state-owned TV channel TRT has misled the public with a news on the Russian Navy's missile cruiser 'Marshal Ustinov,' according to Duvar English contributor Yörük Işık, who is an international maritime and aviation expert.

The state-owned channel released images of the warship on Jan. 6 saying was the vessel “lost its control” and “had a narrow escape from crashing into the shore” in Istanbul's Bosphorus strait but “thankfully” was stopped “at the last minute” off Sarayburnu coast on the European aside. TRT claimed that as the vessel was drifting away due to strong winds, it “as a last resort dropped anchor,” which is how a “calamity” was avoided in the Bosphorus. The channel also reported that in an attempt to later remove the Russian warship away from the shore, Turkish tugboats were sent to the area.

Işık however told Duvar English that the TRT's reporting did not reflect the truth and images instead showed the vessel initially trying to approach the Sarayburnu coast, but then “giving up on the idea” due to the strong wind and currents.

Işık said that the vessel had arrived to Istanbul on Jan. 5 ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the megacity later this week and initially anchored off the coast of Moda on the Asian side. On Jan. 6, it tried to dock at Sarayburnu close to Dolmabahçe Palace, but later gave up on the idea, returning to Moda back, where it currently remains anchored.

Işık said that unlike what the TRT reported, the four tugboats were there not to “save” the vessel, but to help it approach the Sarayburnu coast as officially planned. “Marshal Ustinov tried to approach the Sarayburnu coast with four tugboats. Since the vessel is 200 meters long, this was an ambitious idea anyway. And since the currents were very strong, the captain gave up on the idea. It went back to the Moda coast,” he said.

The maritime expert said that even if in the absence of currents and winds, i.e. provided that “there is good weather,” three Turkish tugboats would be in any case needed to approach such a vessel to the Sarayburnu coast. “The vessel would in fact have accomplished to approach the shore. But, probably the captain did not want to take a risk before Putin's arrival. Tomorrow evening, according to reports, the weather will get better; so he will probably do it tomorrow,” he said. The Russian warship will stay docked at the Sarayburnu shore during Putin's visit to Istanbul.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will meet with Putin on Jan. 8. The Russian leader will participate in the launch of the Turkish Stream pipeline project, which will link Russia and Turkey to Europe via the Black Sea.The two leaders are also expected to discuss the recent situation in Syria and Libya during the visit.

The TRT's report of “a calamity having been prevented” in the Bosphorus and the reporter's emphasis on previous accidents in the strait, was assessed by many as an attempt of the channel trying to make Istanbulites question maritime safety in the strait.

Despite a strong resistance among the public, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been trying to push for the Kanal Istanbul project for a while now -- a plan to connect the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea with a Bosphorus-like artificial canal in the north of the megacity.

Known as the “crazy project,” the project has been on the government’s agenda since 2011.

One of the reasons that the government uses to justify the necessity of the project is that the Bosphorus strait is already congested and the new canal will make passage safer, reducing the risk of collisions.