Authorities from both the United States and the Soviet Union are investigating allegations that a female U.S. Navy petty officer was sexually assaulted on one of three visiting Soviet navy ships on Tuesday, only hours after the ships arrived at San Diego Naval Station.
"(Friday) morning we learned that allegations were made by a female petty officer who said she had been sexually assaulted on board one of the Soviet ships while they were in port,” Cmdr. Doug Schamp, a U.S. Navy spokesman, said Saturday.
Schamp would not specify if the woman said she was raped.
The three Soviet ships were to sail from San Diego to their home port of Vladivostok this morning after a five-day stay in the United States, the third in a series of reciprocal visits between the navies of the two superpowers.
“As of this morning, the young woman couldn’t come up with any kind of identification (of her attacker),” Schamp said Saturday. “Everything that came out of her statement was turned over to the Soviet navy prior to the time they departed.”
The incident allegedly occurred when the woman, who was not in uniform, was separated from friends aboard one of two Soviet destroyers--the Boyevoy and the Admiral Vinogradov--that were being toured by the public.
The primary jurisdiction of any offense that occurred on a Soviet ship would be the Soviet navy’s, said Capt. Roger Smith of the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps, pointing out that the three ships are considered Soviet soil.
“It’s an extension of their sovereignity,” he explained.
Lt. Col. Jerry Harke, a Pentagon spokesman, said that he did not know if the Department of Defense was investigating, but that several federal agencies were looking into the matter.
“They are working to provide information to the Soviets and are asking the Soviets to help in ensuring that justice is served,” Harke said.
Harry Stovall, the Naval Investigative Service special agent in charge of the San Diego Naval Station, would say only that his agency is conducting an investigation of the incident. Stovall would not give any details about the case.
At a press conference Saturday morning, Adm. Charles Larson, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said both countries were investigating the case, but he would not provide further details.
“Both the Soviets and ourselves share a common concern over any such allegations,” said Larson, the official host of the visit. “We will move swiftly to determine the facts.”
Schamp said he discussed the matter with Soviet officials, who said there was “extremely stringent security” on the ships Tuesday night, when the alleged assault occurred.
“They said it would have been impossible for an incident to have taken place on their ship,” Schamp said.
Col. Nicholay N. Bessubchenco of the Soviet Political Directorate said that if the Soviet navy determined there was evidence to prosecute a sailor, it would be done “very seriously.”
Schamp described the jurisdiction of the case as “very complicated.”
“It would have to be settled at two or three levels--the State Department, the military and locally,” he said. “There will probably be a wrap-up of our evaluation, and everything we are able to gather will be forwarded to the Soviet navy.”
The Soviet Consulate in San Francisco did not return phone calls Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.