As HMCS Toronto sails across the Black Sea as part of a NATO training mission, its crew members are recounting a “provocative” incident earlier this month, in which Russian fighter jets circled the Canadian warship.

A SU-24 Fencer circles above HMCS Toronto

A SU-24 Fencer circles above HMCS Toronto, as seen in this picture taken by crew on board the Canadian warship during NATO operations in the Black Sea.

“It was slightly provocative in nature,” Commanding Officer Jason Armstrong told CTV’s Richard Madan, who is aboard HMCS Toronto with an exclusive look at the vessel’s operations.

Two Russian fighter jets and a Russian surveillance aircraft “buzzed” the Canadian frigate on Sept. 7, with one jet coming within several hundred metres of the ship.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson called the move “unnecessarily provocative,” although it posed no risk to HMCS Toronto or its crew.

Armstrong said the Russian jets flew “in close proximity” to the warship. Although the ship’s commander advised the Russian aircraft to stay away, a pair of SU-24 Fencers circled above HMCS Toronto for more than half an hour.

The Russian jets were unarmed. The HMCS crew believes they wanted to get a closer look at the Canadian frigate.

Armstrong said there have been other interactions with the Russians, but the exact number of those incidents is classified.

HMCS Toronto is now off the coast of Crimea, after sailing from Bulgaria on Sunday. It’s leading a NATO military mission called Operation Reassurance, a multinational effort aimed at building security in the Black Sea region amid pro-Russian separatist aggression in Ukraine.

HMCS Toronto is armed with torpedoes and heavy weaponry and equipped with a Sea King helicopter on standby. There are 250 crew members on board.

With details from CTV News reporter Richard Madan