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Naval expert: Ships shown during Democratic convention tribute to veterans were Russian

David Martosko Executive Editor
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The Democratic National Convention’s final night included a stirring tribute to America’s veterans from a retired naval four-star admiral, complete with a backdrop of jets flying over a row of proud warships. But convention organizers may soon regret it.

Norman Polmar, author of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Soviet Navy” and other military handbooks, told the Navy Times on Tuesday that the ships were Russian vessels.

“The ships are definitely Russian,” Polmar told the military newspaper. “There’s no question of that in my mind.” The ships depicted in the Democrats’ backdrop had radar designs that the U.S. fleet doesn’t use.

Other experts said the image displayed on giant video screens inside the Times Warner Cable Arena was a Photoshopped composite showing U.S. trainer jets, F-5s, flying over the Russian ships.

Retired Adm. John Nathman, who formerly commanded Fleet Forces Command, honored veterans Thursday night during the hour before President Obama accepted his party’s nomination for a second four-year term in the White House.

Rob Barker, a former naval electronics warfare technician, first identified the ships as Russian in design, and was able to identify the ship in the foreground as a specific vessel — the Kara-class cruiser “Kerch.”

“I was kind of in shock,” Barker told the Navy Times. “An immediate apology [from the DNC] would be very nice. Maybe acknowledge the fact that yes, they screwed up.”

Polmar also recognized a blue “X” on one of the ships’ flags, a Russian navy symbol fashioned after a St. Andrew’s Cross.

A.D. Baker III, a retired analyst who worked in the Office of Naval Intelligence, told Navy Times that the four ships, “at the time the photo was taken, constituted the entire major surface combatant component of the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet.”

He said the photo was likely at least six years old.

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