American Shell Oil Company
Washington CNN  — 

A Russian intelligence vessel was spotted near a ship contracted by the American Shell Oil Company exploring for oil in the Arctic, sources told CNN on Monday.

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis confirmed the sighting to CNN on Monday and said no U.S. defense assets were deployed in response.

“We aware of the Russian vessel Kurily sailing in the vicinity of the Nobel Discoverer,” Davis said. “We recognize the rights of all sovereign nations to freely navigate in international waters.”

The U.S. Northern Command was alerted to the Russian vessel’s presence on Sunday after the U.S. Coast Guard was first informed, the sources said.

The ship was part of a Shell-contracted ship that is exploring for oil in the Chukchi Sea, which is north of the Bering Strait and lies between Alaska and Russia.

American and foreign oil companies are racing against each other to strike oil in that region.

Shell began exploratory oil drilling in Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska after President Barack Obama approved offshore Arctic drilling in May.

The U.S. oil giant had been pushing for years for a greenlight from the federal government to begin tapping into vast oil reserves in the Arctic, drilling that environmentalists vigorously oppose due to risks to the environment and wildlife.